Manchester City stepped up their attempt to beat Arsenal to the signing of Declan Rice by making their first bid for the West Ham midfielder on Monday.
Arsenal have had two bids for Rice rejected and are in danger of missing out on Mikel Arteta’s top target. City want the England midfielder to replace Ilkay Gündogan, who completed his move to Barcelona on Monday, and have sent West Ham a formal proposal worth £80m plus £10m in add-ons.
West Ham have been holding out for at least £100m for Rice and it remains to be seen how they respond to City’s offer. The London Stadium were unimpressed with Arsenal’s opening two offers. Arsenal’s second bid was £75m plus £15m in add-ons, but they wanted to spread the initial part of the payment over five years. West Ham want the guaranteed portion to be spread over fewer instalments.
The sense until now has been that Rice’s preference is to join Arsenal. He admires Arteta’s football and sources have stressed that the 24-year-old does not want to leave London. Arsenal are planning a third bid and are likely to need to counter City’s offer by meeting West Ham’s asking price. There has been an expectation that they would end up paying over £100m once add-ons were taken into account. Arsenal will not have a problem agreeing personal terms with Rice.
However the chance to play for Pep Guardiola is bound to test Rice’s desire to remain in London. Guardiola has led City to the treble and Rice would be joining the dominant force in European football. He would know that moving to City would take his understanding of how to play in midfield to another level.
Rice met Guardiola towards the end of last season and sources were last night suggesting that City, who are also trying to sign the RB Leipzig defender, Josko Gvardiol, would find a way of getting the deal done. They are set to bolster their midfield by signing Mateo Kovacic from Chelsea for £25m plus £5m in add-ons and already have Rodri and Kalvin Phillips, but losing Gündogan to Barca was not part of the plan. City also risk Bernardo Silva moving to Saudi Arabia on a lucrative deal.
Guardiola’s intentions for Rice are fascinating. Rice has tended to play as a defensive midfielder for West Ham and has often had to restrict the attacking side of his game. Would he be a like-for-like replacement for Gündogan? People who know him well believe that Rice would become far more effective in the final third if he plays in a more dominant team.
It would be a huge blow for Arsenal if they miss out on Rice. They have been planning his signing since the end of last year and have been strong favourites to buy him. Arsenal, who expect to complete the £65m signing of Kai Havertz from Chelsea on Tuesday, missed out on the title to City last season and will not want to be gazumped by them again.