Arsenal a remarkable rise to the top of the Premier League table has won them many fans in England and beyond. Among this growing number, there is one particularly interesting person – West Ham midfielder Declan Rice.
Mikel Arteta has made England his top target for the summer transfer window, with Arsenal looking to bolster their midfield for what is likely to be their first Champions League campaign since 2016-17. Just a few months ago, it was hard to imagine that the Gunners could be the serious challenge for Rice that some of the top teams in England and Europe coveted, but their progress has caught the attention of many.
Sources say Rice has spoken enthusiastically about Arsenal to his teammates, stating that he is overwhelmed by the progress the north London team has made. Indeed, his private comments about the “Gunners” are said to be even more enthusiastic than the public ones, where he called them “a leading team” that “you can see”. [are] coached incredibly well” after losing West Ham 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day.
Rice’s entourage planned to leave West Ham, who are currently struggling with relegation from the Premier League. If they fell out of the top division, the Hammers would have a hard time resisting a knockdown sale.
Arsenal are confident they can get their man, who will be a direct rival and long-term successor to Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka, who will be in their 30s when the new season kicks off. It is unlikely that they will be alone in their pursuit of Rice. Manchester United have been following him for a while, though Casemiro is now firmly established as their magnet in midfield.
Chelsea are also longtime fans of their former academy graduate. For a while it seemed like they were the natural club to provide the 24-year-old’s services, but as they sit 10th in the table, 10 points behind fourth, they have the daunting task of providing the Champions League football that Rice wants next season.
“One hundred percent I want to play in the Champions League,” he said in December. “For the last two or three years I have been saying this. I play consistently well for my club and I feel like I really want to keep fighting. I see my friends here who play in the Champions League and for big trophies.”