West Ham will be “worried” about the future of one of their most prized assets, and even a bumper new deal won’t prevent an exit to a bigger club, claims a pundit.
Under David Moyes’ stewardship, the list of West Ham stars who have taken their game to another level is a lengthy one. Michail Antonio is playing the best football of his life as a centre-forward, but it is arguably Declan Rice who has taken the biggest leap forward.
Rice comprises one half of a formidable midfield partnership alongside Tomas Soucek. The 22-year-old has begun to add goals and assists to his game this season, notching two in each category across all competitions so far.
The England international is one of the country’s most in-demand midfielders, with Manchester United and Chelsea both previously linked.
Moyes has gone on record as stating a fee of at least £100m will be required to sign Rice. And as evidence of his importance to the club, the Hammers are understood to be keen to tie him down to fresh terms. That’s despite his current deal having over two-and-a-half years remaining.
But speaking to Football Insider, former Premier League striker Noel Whelan claimed West Ham will be “worried”.
Whelan believes Rice’s performance levels have been so high that he is making himself increasingly difficult for West Ham to retain. And per the pundit, not even a bumper new deal will guarantee Rice is kept in east London.
“Even if a player signs a contract, it doesn’t mean they’re going to stay at the football club,” said Whelan.
“It just gives the club more leverage to ask for a bigger fee if there is a longer contract in place.
“He’s going to be well sought-after. West Ham know that, and their fans know that. We’d be stupid to think that wasn’t the case.
“He’s a special player in a specialist position and good players don’t go unnoticed. He gets better every game he plays. He dominates that midfield area and has everything in his repertoire.
“At the end of the season, West Ham are bound to be worried about whether they can keep him.
“At the same time, they could get that £100m fee easily and that could really help them.”
Fabianski to impact West Ham transfer plans?
Meanwhile, West Ham number one Lukasz Fabianski has hinted at extending his contract with the Hammers in a move that could affect their overriding transfer plans.
The goalkeeping duties have been shared in the Europa League so far this season. Fabianski has played one game, and Alphonse Areola – on loan from Paris Saint-Germain – has started the other two.
Fabianski recently commented on his contract situation. His current deal runs out at the end of the season, but he has mentioned possibly extending for another year, as he did in May.
“That’s right. It’s not just West Ham’s policy that footballers of a certain age extend from season to season. This is actually a logical solution for many reasons,” he told Meczyki (via Sport Witness).
“Of course, the most important thing in all this is health and sports level. If I can manage these aspects, I see no problem in extending the contract.”
This may hamper the Hammers’ plans to promote Alphonse Areola to the number one spot. The Frenchman has an option to buy in his loan from PSG, and has impressed in a West Ham shirt so far.