Arsenal are likely to launch their pursuit of a transfer for Declan Rice in the summer.
West Ham believes fans could see ‘the next Declan Rice’ in their FA Youth Cup game against Ipswich, in a message that could boost Arsenal’s hopes of securing the man themselves. The Hammers have a prestigious academy but are in the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup for the first time in two decades.
First team captain Rice has emerged as a prime target for Premier League leaders Arsenal. The England midfielder came through the academy at West Ham having left Chelsea at the age of 14.
West Ham U18 boss Kevin Keen urged fans to attend the game as there are several ‘quality’ players with the potential to feature for the first team in the coming years. The former Crystal Palace first-team coach believes fans can see ‘the next Rice’.
“You always hope, especially at a club like West Ham, to do well in a competition like this. The last few years we haven’t reached those heights, so it’s a challenge for us,” said Keen.
“We have some really good young players and the fans will probably see Declan Rice or Mark Noble next, and will be able to say ‘five years ago I saw that kid play in the FA Youth Cup in Ipswich Town’.
“As long as our players really try, play with pride and play the West Ham way, we will be fine.”
The comments will be music to the ears of those at Arsenal, who are keen to sign Rice from West Ham. if East Londoners find their next academy starlet they may be more willing to let the 24-year-old go.
Come summer, Rice only has a year remaining on his contract. He has so far opted not to sign an extension and will likely explore his options at the end of the season.
Given the length of time remaining on his contract, Arsenal are reportedly confident they can land Rice for around £70m. The Gunners’ massive improvement under Mikel Arteta this season means they can attract a better player profile than in previous transfer windows.
Rice remains committed to West Ham until the end of the season. David Moyes’ side were engaged in a relegation battle and dropped into the bottom three after Sunday’s 2-0 defeat by Tottenham.
Despite his side’s struggles, Moyes hopes any fee for Rice will break the British record £107 million spent by Chelsea on Enzo Fernandez in January. He said: “There’s no doubt Declan will be a top player. He will be England’s transfer record if he leaves West Ham.”