West Ham rejected proposals totaling £90 million from Man City and Arsenal.
When it became clear that Declan Rice was more than just a passing interest for Manchester City, there was no feeling of crisis at the Emirates Stadium. A reflection of the basic fact of competing for one of the Premier League’s top midfielders—a potential future captain of England who has garnered accolades for both his attitude and his technical abilities—Arsenal were overall more upbeat on social media than many of their supporters. The likelihood of signing a player of Rice’s caliber without any opposition was extremely small.
After talking with West Ham over the course of several days, City officially entered the competition on Monday night. The London Stadium management, who will be happy to see their plan come together, quickly rejected an offer of £80 million with an additional £10 million in add-ons in the same way they had responded to Arsenal’s second offer (£75 million with an additional £15 million available). As was announced on June 7, West Ham sought to continue talks as long as possible in an effort to entice other parties to the table.
Their perseverance has paid off as Rice, who has long been interested in moving to the Emirates Stadium, now has the richest club in football as a competition for his affections. Few players pass down the chance to work with Pep Guardiola, and midfielders are among the players least likely to do so. If any club can test his determination, it would be the perennial English champions. Rice, who has a young family and wants to remain in London, has some needs that even a team funded by Abu Dhabi’s wealth cannot fill. Additionally, it is unclear how the West Ham captain would fit into a midfield that is gaining Mateo Kovacic but losing Ilkay Gundogan.
When it comes to the player in question, Arsenal has done the legwork over many months, well before it was initially made public in January that the 24-year-old was fascinated by the idea of going from the east to the north of London. Arsenal will submit a third offer, and there is still hope that if they can hammer out a deal with Rice’s club, the work done to persuade Rice of the idea will pay off.
The Gunners may find it difficult to negotiate with other clubs. West Ham is said to not have a clear asking price per se, according to sources close to the club, though they do appear to view £100 million as the minimum for seriously considering an offer. Instead, they just want to get the most money possible for their most treasured player. In other words, it is possible that Arsenal may reach the £100 million mark only for West Ham to challenge City to outbid them by shopping that offer to them.
They are capable of doing that. With income of £619 million, City led the most recent Deloitte Football Money League. Thanks to their football accomplishments in 2022–23, they will have earned £95 million in Champions League revenue in addition to an expected £170 million in prize money for winning the Premier League. Investigations into how City reached the top of the football financial pyramid are still ongoing, but one thing is certain: they have the resources this summer to surpass everyone. It doesn’t even have to be the numbers where City beats Arsenal.
West Ham’s desire to get most, if not all, of the main price in two years has been a major sticking point in negotiations. The Gunners would prefer to stretch the deal over four or five years, which is a completely reasonable strategy for such huge sums. The addition of a few sizeable instalments for Rice puts pressure on the finances as Mikel Arteta attempts to assemble a team with the depth in multiple positions to be a Premier League contender. A large portion of the significant expenditure Arsenal committed to in the summers of 2021 and 2022 still needs to be written off the books.
In the past, City has not paid more than what they consider to be a fair price for a player. Last summer, they chose not to give a Premier League opponent a free run at a left back they desperately needed instead of spending the £62 million Chelsea spent for Marc Cucurella. That might be the case again this summer, with Arsenal ultimately reaching a price where their competitors at the Etihad Stadium choose to back off, but the temptation will undoubtedly still be there to deny last season’s biggest domestic rival the player they need most of all.
After experiencing the disparity between them and Manchester City on a daily basis during the spring, the last thing Arsenal will want is another stinging reminder of it. Similar to the title race, Arteta’s team has done a lot of things well to set the stage for what could very well be the biggest prize of the offseason. The issue is that the approaching juggernaut possesses talents that they do not.