Declan Rice remains keen to join Arsenal despite Manchester City planning to enter the race to sign the West Ham midfielder. Arsenal’s first two bids for Rice have been rejected, leaving Mikel Arteta at risk of missing out on his top target. City have the financial wherewithal to meet West Ham’s asking price of at least £100m, and it would be hard for the 24-year-old to turn down the chance to play for Pep Guardiola.
Rice spoke to Guardiola towards the end of last season and City are planning for life without Ilkay Gündogan, who has decided to join Barcelona on a free transfer. However, the treble winners are not short of options in central midfield. They are close to signing Mateo Kovacic from Chelsea and have Rodri and Kalvin Phillips to play in central midfield.
Rice would be more likely to start regularly at Arsenal and his preference remains to stay in London. The England international became a father last year and is extremely close to his family. Rice also admires Arteta’s football and Arsenal should not have any problems when it comes to personal terms.
Arsenal’s problem remains agreeing a fee. Their first offer was £60m plus £15m in add-ons and that was followed this week by a bid of £75m plus £15m in add-ons. West Ham were unimpressed with Arsenal’s attempt to spread the £75m payment over five years and unhappy with what they deemed a series of unrealistic add-ons.
West Ham want the guaranteed portion of the fee to be paid in fewer instalments to boost their financial position. The expectation remains that Rice will join Arsenal for a fee that could top £100m once add-ons are taken into account. There were indications on Thursday night that the transfer was rumbling towards a conclusion, though suggestions Arsenal have lodged their third bid have been denied.
Arsenal will need to make Rice their record signing. Arteta wants more physicality in midfield and is also targeting Southampton’s Roméo Lavia, who is valued at £45m. Arsenal are close to completing an initial £60m deal for the Chelsea forward Kai Havertz, who is due to have a medical. Havertz is expected to be unveiled next week.
Arsenal are prepared to make room for Rice by selling Granit Xhaka, who has an offer from Bayer Leverkusen, and Thomas Partey. There is interest in Partey from Saudi Arabia and Juventus and he would prefer to stay in Europe.