West Ham have now signed the deal to sell captain Declan Rice after finally receiving paperwork from Arsenal.
The transfer was agreed eight days ago and the Hammers were becoming increasingly frustrated by the delay to complete the deal.
One insider told Sky Sports News: “I’ve never known anything like this saga”.
However, West Ham have now signed to deal to sell Rice to Arsenal, who are set to announce their club-record signing before heading to the US for a pre-season tour on Sunday.
The hold-up was being caused by delays with the paperwork being drawn up by Arsenal’s lawyers.
As far as West Ham were aware, Rice had passed his Gunners medical and had been training regularly while on holiday in Portugal.
The deal is broken down into an initial payment of £100m with £5m in add-ons and will eclipse Arsenal’s previous record purchase, which is currently Nicolas Pepe from Lille for £72m in 2019.
Rice’s signing will be just short of the British transfer record, which was set by Chelsea when they paid Benfica £106.8m for Enzo Fernandez in January.
Arsenal did conclude the £38m signing of Jurrien Timber, who has signed a five-year contract, on Friday.
The Gunners have paid Ajax £34m up front for Timber, with the remainder of the fee made up in performance-related add-ons.
Timber has been signed as a right-back – a role that was predominantly fulfilled by Ben White last season – but can also play at centre-back, and has previously attracted interest from Manchester United.
What Rice adds to Arsenal and where he fits…
If Arsenal needed any further convincing over the merits of a move for Declan Rice, they got it just after the half-hour mark during their 2-2 draw with West Ham at the London Stadium in April.
Mikel Arteta’s side were two goals up and seemingly cruising towards a victory which would have sent them six points clear of Manchester City. But it all changed with a moment of quick-thinking from a player they now hope to make their record signing.
Rice, seeing Kieran Tierney about to aim a pass towards Thomas Partey deep in the Arsenal half, set off on a sprint to close the Ghanaian down, reaching him just in time to steal possession, then carrying the ball into the box and finding the onrushing Lucas Paqueta.
The subsequent penalty, won by Paqueta and scored by Said Benrahma, shifted the momentum of the game away from Arsenal. Perhaps even that of the title race too. And it started with Rice.
That passage of play showed many of the qualities that make Rice so appealing to Arsenal: the anticipation to spot the opportunity; the speed and power to get there and emerge with the ball; the composure to set up his team-mate and force the penalty.
Where does Rice’s transfer fee rank?
Jude Bellingham became the most expensive English player of all time when he made the £115m move from Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid earlier this month.
Rice becomes the second most expensive ever, costing £5m more than the £100m Manchester City paid for Jack Grealish in August 2021.
It would also be only the third time an English club has paid over £100m for a player.
Explained: How Arsenal can afford big-money summer signings
Football finance expert Kieran Maguire says Arsenal’s seemingly enhanced willingness to spend is a “reward” for Mikel Arteta.
“Arsenal are actually in a very strong position when it comes to spending,” he told Sky Sports News.
“The reason for that is they have managed to get their wages under control.
“Arsenal’s wages are lower than they were in 2018. They are £150m to £170m less than Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City. That has given them the flexibility to go into the market and buy new players without having to worry too much.
“Plus they have got the additional benefits of Champions League matches coming in, premium prices and the minimum I would say prize money of £50m from being participants.
“So you factor that all together and they’ve probably still got a bit of leeway in terms of what they can spend over this present window.”
When asked if there’s been a strategy change at Arsenal, he added: “Yes. They had a retrenchment. They went through some fallow years when they weren’t qualifying for the Champions League.
“They have managed to get rid of high earners, the likes of Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang off that payroll, and that has given them the ability to now go into the market and be very competitive and try to match other clubs.
“Arsenal used to be known as the Bank of England club. They’ve always been well run financially and I think this change in terms of spending is a reward for Mikel Arteta in terms of his ability to get them into those Champions League places again, which means so much in terms of enhanced revenue.”
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