rice chase | 

Arsenal want Declan Rice and they are willing to pay €80m to get him

They could face competition from Chelsea, Rice’s boyhood club

Declan Rice: Arsenal target. Photo: Reuters© REUTERS

Sam DeanTelegraph.co.uk

Arsenal are hoping to sign Declan Rice from West Ham United this summer and have made the England international their top target.

They could face competition from Chelsea, Rice’s boyhood club, but are understood to be growing in confidence that they will be able to secure his signature in a deal worth around €80 million.

There is a growing expectation that Rice will leave West Ham this summer, at which point he will have only one year remaining on his contract.

Rice remains fully committed to West Ham’s relegation battle this season but has made it clear in recent months that he wants to be playing Champions League football and challenging for trophies. At the age of 24, and with 39 England caps, Rice fits into Arsenal’s recruitment model of targeting young players with leadership experience and potential to improve.

Chelsea remain huge admirers of Rice and there is a risk that Arsenal will face a repeat of the Mykhailo Mudryk situation, in which the Stamford Bridge club outbid their London rivals. But Chelsea’s struggles in the Premier League – they are 10th – mean that Champions League qualification is now looking increasingly unlikely.

Arsenal moved eight points clear at the top of the table with their 2-0 victory in Sunday’s north London derby and are now 14 points ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur with a game in hand. Rice is an international team-mate of Bukayo Saka and a former academy team-mate of Eddie Nketiah, dating back to their time in the Chelsea youth ranks.

With Granit Xhaka now 30 and Thomas Partey 29, Arsenal are hoping to strengthen and refresh their midfield. If they sign Rice, he would compete with Xhaka, Partey and Martin Odegaard for a place in Arteta’s starting line-up.

Part of the reason Arsenal were unwilling to match Chelsea’s £88m bid for Mudryk in this transfer window is because they knew that paying over the odds for the winger would have an impact on their summer spending plans. They still hope to strengthen this month, however, with Real Valladolid right-back Ivan Fresneda a target and they remain keen on signing a winger after missing out on Mudryk.

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