There has been speculation for years, this summer it could be so far: Declan Rice is about to change – to Bayern?
Declan Rice has a lot on his plate these days. On Wednesday evening the Conference League final rises for him and West Ham United against Fiorentina. This is the midfield star’s big chance to win a title with his Hammers.
And then there are the rumors of transfers, which are currently circulating more violently than ever before. Does he go to Bayern? Or will it be Arsenal? Manchester United and of course Chelsea should also get involved. Either way, the England international has a landmark decision to make at the end of the season.
His contract expires in the summer of 2024, and West Ham’s attempts to tie him to an eight-year contract (!) have so far come to nothing. The London club insists on a hefty transfer fee of more than 100 million euros for a possible sale this summer.
Is the central midfielder really worth it?
Bayern transfer target Declan Rice: His fee “will overshadow everything”
When it comes to Rice, West Ham manager David Moyes is nothing to envy at press conferences. In recent years he has been asked questions about the future of his best player with alarming regularity. However, Moyes was consistent when asked about Rice’s astronomical price. For the Hammers it means: 100 million pounds (116 million euros) and more or nothing. When recently asked if the midfielder was worth that much, the Scot replied with a simple ‘yes’.
He added: “I think I’ve said everything there is to say about Declan. He’s a really important player for West Ham. He’s someone we hold in high esteem and you can see the importance he means to our team has. He’s a great person. We’re glad he’s with us.”
A few days earlier, Moyes had claimed that a possible transfer fee for Rice would easily eclipse the British record €121m that Chelsea spent on Enzo Fernández in January. “Declan will undoubtedly be a top player. He will set a British transfer record should he ever leave West Ham,” he said. At the prices currently being paid on the transfer market, Rice will “eclipse all of that when the time comes.”
With Declan Rice, the signs are goodbye
As much as Moyes would love to keep his captain, everything points to Rice moving on in the summer. The West Ham boss admitted this in May, saying at a press conference: “We hope Dec stays. (…) But we are aware that that may not be the case.”
Mark Noble, head of sports at the Hammers, made a similar statement a few months ago. “Dec will always be celebrated at West Ham as a fantastic player and a very, very good person. But I don’t think anyone begrudges his desire to go and win something,” he said.
And Rice himself has admitted that he wants to fight for the big titles. “I want to play in the Champions League 100 per cent. I’ve said that over and over again for the last two or three years. I play consistently well for my club and I feel like I really want to get on. I see my friends, playing in the Champions League and fighting for big trophies. You only have one career and at the end you want to look back on what you’ve won and the biggest games you’ve been in.”
More than 100 million euros for Declan Rice? There are skeptics
While Rice is THE player par excellence for the Hammers, the high transfer fee is a source of astonishment among competitors and experts. There is, for example, Brentford’s manager Thomas Frank, who stated that his striker Ivan Toney certainly has a higher market value than the 24-year-old at the moment.
Arsenal legend Gilberto Silva says: “You normally see such prices for strikers, not central midfielders. It strikes me as quite high, even if the quality of the player is undisputed. But it sounds like a very high price.”
Silva has quite a point. Rice just doesn’t play spectacularly. That doesn’t diminish its value for a team, but transfer fees in the three-digit million range are usually paid for artists and not for workers.
Rodri, Fabinho, Casemiro… Declan Rice?
But what role does Rice actually play? “Playmaker from the deep” is probably an apt description. At West Ham and England’s national team, he usually plays on the double six in a 4-2-3-1 or as the main defensive player in a back three in midfield.
Its main role when the opponent has possession is to provide additional protection for the defenders. When his team is in possession, Rice is the first port of call for building up attacks. He plays clever passes and is also excellent at “carrying” the ball himself.
Players of this type are very difficult to find – that’s why Arsenal and Bayern are so keen to sign Rice on a long-term basis this summer. Manchester City, for example, took a long time to finally part ways with Fernandinho. Successor Rodri initially struggled to fill the void left by his absence. Liverpool lynchpin Fabinho was once described by Reds assistant manager Pep Lijnders as a “beacon” for Jurgen Klopp’s “organized chaos”. Another such player in the Premier League, Casemiro has made a tangible difference to Manchester United’s game this season.
Top-class defensive midfielders are extremely important for the stability of a team. However, they do not grow on trees and are therefore in great demand.
Declan Rice: The big strength is the passing game
Rice’s ability to move the ball has improved significantly in recent seasons. Early in his career, when the hype around him was already huge, he was criticized for playing it safe – and the numbers back it up.
In the 2017-18 Premier League season, Rice completed just 2.26 progressive passes per 90 minutes. In the following seasons he took more risks and increased his quota in this area bit by bit. Rice peaked in the 2021-22 season when he averaged an impressive 7.25 progressive passes per game — a metric that’s only dipped slightly this season.
Rice has an excellent technique and safely brings short passes as well as long diagonal balls and through balls to the teammate.
Bayern transfer target Declan Rice: A complete midfielder
Just as his passing game has improved over the years, Rice is now far more adept at marching forward with the ball on his foot himself. In his debut Premier League season, Rice averaged 1.13 forays (dribbles that go at least 10 yards) per 90 minutes. Last season there were twice as many.
There was a similar improvement in the number of ball wins as well as the number of advances into the last period. This newfound ability to dribble is a very welcome addition to his game as it provides an antidote when teams try to stop his short passing game with targeted pressing.
Rice combines elegance with physique, which makes him difficult to calculate for his opponents.
Declan Rice is a trained defense attorney
Rice started his career as a central defender – and it shows. A native of London, he is very good at reading a game and has good timing. In the English House of Lords there was no player who intercepted more balls than Rice (63). Rice has also been in the top nine tacklers for the past two seasons and his aerial ability is decent.
Because of his solid defensive work, he could easily be used again in defense should the need arise. When Chelsea were most associated with his signing, it was said they wanted to use him in a back three at Stamford Bridge. At that time, the Blues team manager was today’s Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel.
Rice could definitely work in the defensive center as he has all the qualities of a modern defender. However, using him in central defense would also be a waste of his offensive assets.
Declan Rice is increasingly dangerous
Admittedly, Rice is not a goal-getter, but that would be surprising given his position. Nevertheless, he certainly exudes a goal threat and has scored at least five goals in each of the last two seasons.
Some of those goals were pretty important. In October, Rice scored the all-important equalizer against Southampton by playing a clever one-two before slipping the ball past Gavin Bazunu. Most recently, he started his side’s comeback against Leeds when he volleyed in a right-footed cross from Jarrod Bowen.
Bayern transfer target Declan Rice: Young and yet very experienced
It seems like Rice has been in the business forever, but he’s only 24 years old. Although his career is still far from the prime of footballing glory, he has over 200 Premier League appearances and major tournament experience to his credit.
He has also captained West Ham since Noble’s retirement last summer. Noble left a large gap in the Hammers’ dressing room, but Rice filled it well. He confronted critical fans after poor results and never ducked in interviews. He has long been considered a leader off the pitch.
Declan Rice: Homegrown Player Status Drives Market Value Up
There is no dispute that Rice is the best defensive midfielder available for top clubs this summer. The more important question is: why is it valued so highly and is it worth putting an exorbitant sum on the table for it?
The factor that so dramatically increases West Ham’s claim is the fact that he is English. It is popularly said that players from England are ‘overhyped’. But the real reasons for their inflated value are more complicated.
Premier League clubs have more spending power than their European rivals thanks to a record-breaking TV deal. Thanks to their economic power, even lesser-known clubs can pay horrendous salaries and thus select the best talents in the world.
While some clubs don’t want to, Premier League rules require them to retain a core of England-trained players. Therefore, the best English players like Rice are worth their weight in gold. Everyone wants them, and this demand drives up the price.
Declan Rice is priceless for West Ham United
In addition to the “soft factor” of his origins, his great value for his club West Ham also plays a role. Who likes to sell their figurehead, which is also a creative focal point on the pitch?
His loss could mean the difference between survival and relegation if the Hammers fail to rev up next season – just look at how explosively ex-champions Leicester have fallen apart.
Thanks to the hefty TV bucks of staying in the Premier League, West Ham might even be willing to let Rice go on a free transfer at the end of next season rather than sell him below his ‘true value’ in the summer.
Whatever happens, Rice has done the Hammers a great service. And should anyone decide to live up to the club’s high but fair value, they will receive one of the best midfielders in the world.