Premier League • England

Arsenal ‘increasingly confident’ of blockbuster midfield signing after leapfrogging Chelsea, Newcastle

Moises Caicedo and Declan Rice

Arsenal have become firm favourites to win the race to sign Declan Rice from West Ham, according to the latest reports.

Rice seems ready to leave West Ham this summer after being in their first team since 2017. Keen to step up to Champions League level, the midfielder has rejected offers to extend his contract at the London Stadium.

Considering his current deal is due to expire in 2024, West Ham might have to sell their captain this summer. Thanks to his pedigree, Rice will have plenty of admirers.

However, the most serious suitor seems to be Arsenal. According to Football Insider, they are in ‘pole position’ to sign Rice and are ‘increasingly confident’ that they will.

After all, Chelsea and Newcastle have both backed away from a deal due to West Ham’s asking price. It has left Arsenal at the front of the queue to complete the transfer they desire.

Arsenal have been searching for a long-term lynchpin for their midfield. Their main starting partnership this season has been Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey, but the former is 30 and the latter will be as well by the start of next season.

Jorginho and Mohamed Elneny are the other options available to Mikel Arteta, but are also in their thirties.

At the age of 24, Rice has a good blend of existing experience and remaining potential to unlock. And given that he wants to stay in London ideally, Arsenal could tick boxes for him too.

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Arsenal could break transfer record for Declan Rice

In order to sign him, they will probably have to break their transfer record. According to the report, West Ham will be asking for a fee between £80m and £100m.

Arsenal last broke their transfer record in 2019, when Nicolas Pepe cost them £72m when he joined from Lille.

Now, the Gunners could be preparing to spend big again as they approach a long-awaited return to Champions League football.

Rice would be leaving West Ham after more than 230 appearances for his only club to date. This season, he has played 40 times in all competitions, scoring three goals and assisting four more.

Most recently, he was among the goalscorers for West Ham in the second leg of their Europa Conference League quarter-final win over Gent.

A semi-final against AZ Alkmaar will be West Ham’s reward, and if they can get through that, the final would be against Basel or Fiorentina. The prospect of winning silverware for the first time will ensure an exciting end to the season for Rice, but he could have even bigger fish to fry next season.

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