Declan Rice is leaning towards joining Arsenal this summer because of the prospect of playing for Mikel Arteta, who has drawn up plans for where the West Ham captain would fit into his team.
Arsenal have made Rice their top transfer target and are increasingly confident of beating Chelsea to his signature. The midfielder is almost certain to leave West Ham, who are battling relegation this season, and is keen to test himself in the Champions League.
Rice was in Chelsea’s academy before being released at the age of 14 and there has been an expectation that he will eventually return to his boyhood club. However, Arteta is a huge fan of Rice, who is regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe, and Arsenal are emerging as favorites to buy him. Manchester United are also expected to join the race for the 24-year-old.
West Ham will hope to fetch more than £100m for Rice, which would make him the most expensive British player. However, the England international’s contract runs until the summer of 2024, with the option of an additional year, and that could force West Ham to settle for a fee in the region of £80m.
The numbers will not put off Arsenal and they believe that they can fend off interest from Chelsea, who beat their rivals to the £70m signing of Mykhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk last week.
The prospect of moving to the Emirates Stadium and working under Arteta appeals to Rice. He has seen Arteta turn Arsenal into title contenders this season and would be confident of the Spaniard’s coaching making him a better midfielder.
Arteta has responded to missing out on Mudryk by strengthening his attack with the signing of Leandro Trossard from Brighton, while he is close to adding to his defensive options by buying Jakub Kiwior from Spezia.
The addition of a central midfielder this summer will be a priority for Arsenal, who host Manchester United on Sunday. Arteta believes that Rice would provide elite competition for Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey.