£100m Declan Rice’s best career move couldn’t be more obvious amid Arsenal, Chelsea, and Man City interest

Declan Rice is set to be in demand this summer, with Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, and Man United.
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I’m not crying, you’re crying. In the wake West Ham’s valuable 1-0 win over Manchester United on Sunday evening, a video started spreading across Football TwitterTM , like an ink spill through water. It showed Declan Rice, still visibly shattered from his exertions on the pitch, taking the time to converse with - and give his shirt to - a young fan. The Irons skipper came across like a thoroughly decent bloke, genuinely attentive and hugely generous with his time. There was no performative streak, no robotic, media-trained automation - just a nice guy being a nice guy because he’s a nice guy. Understandably, Rice’s boyish supporter was left in tears, and honestly, I reckon half the people who watched it were too.

You would be a brave kind of idiot to bet against more sobbing before the summer is through. It is no secret that Rice is a man in demand. Barely a day goes by where some tabloid scribbler or other doesn’t offer up his name to the altar of transfer speculation in the hopes of appeasing the traffic gods and being blessed with a bountiful harvest of inquisitive clicks. The 24-year-old is to engagement what Chris Pratt is to Hollywood casting directors - a guaranteed banker. I am not writing this article for philanthropic reasons, put it that way.

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But where will Rice end up? It’s a valid enough question - I mean, lord knows he has no end of possible destinations. If the whispers are to be believed then Arsenal, Chelsea, and both Manchester clubs are hovering around like fruit flies on a rotting banana, flitting about and generally vexing with their ceaseless, buzzing presence.

Of those yearning giants, however, one makes far more sense than the rest. Allow me to explain...


Or rather, allow me to meander a little first. To properly explain which club Rice should next sign for, it is first necessary to explain where he should avoid. We’ll start with Chelsea, because, well, have you seen what’s been happening at Stamford Bridge lately?

The Blues are in a rut; there are halls of mirrors in travelling carnivals that provide a better clarity of vision and sense of direction than Todd Boehly’s orgy of chaos currently does. Having splurged the GDP of a small principality on new players since the American’s arrival, Chelsea are now approximately thirty to forty times worse than they were 12 months ago. It’s almost impressive. They’re like one of those people from a Channel Five documentary who spend their life savings on plastic surgery to make themselves look more like a tiger or something, only to end up hospitalised with toxic shock syndrome when one of their silicone cheek implants leaks.

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With that in mind, it would take a special kind of lunacy for a player to willingly opt for a transfer to West London this summer, especially when there are other options on the table. Rice, of course, was once on the books at Chelsea, and is good friends with Mason Mount, but given that the club kicked him to the curb as a teenager, and that his bestie could also be on the move in the coming months, it’s hard to see either nostalgia or residual loyalty as justifiable, or likely, excuses for embracing this particular insanity.

Manchester United

Would it even be a proper Premier League transfer saga if United weren’t in there, like a retired truffle pig, prodding their snout about and trying to convince anybody that will listen that they still possess the keeness of renown to compete with the new breed of glory hogs?

Perhaps the most frustrating/hilarious thing (delete as applicable based on personal allegiances) from a United perspective is that they are crying out for a player like Rice. Just look at the difference that Casemiro has made this season. Imagine if they had another presence like that, and one that isn’t going to leave them for a romantic Brazilian homecoming in 2025.

But this article isn’t about what is best for United, it’s about what is best for Rice, and honestly, settling at Old Trafford would be too great of a risk. If things went well, then yeah, maybe he would be the poster boy for the revolution, the emblematic vanguard of the resuscitation. But what if it doesn’t? How many players have been lured in to the quagmire and have just ended up sinking like that horse in The Neverending Story? Maguire, Pogba, Sancho, Van de Beek, Lukaku, Di Maria, Depay, even, arguably, Ronaldo. Need I go on?

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Scrutiny is heightened to a hellish extent in the red half of Manchester, and as such, it is far, far easier for reputations to be left shredded in the gutter. You want my advice, Dec? Steer clear.

Manchester City

In the same way that United have garnered a reputation for ruining players, City have started to accrue one for burying them. There is a sense that the Premier League champions buy because they can, not because they need to, and that it can be detrimental to the progression and momentum of the talents that they reel in.

In the worst instances, that is true. Kalvin Phillips, for instance, has played just 3% of the game time that he has actually been available for this season. But by and large, you would have to argue that it’s an unfair representation. City aren’t exactly a squad bulging at the seams with wanton excess. Pep Guardiola has used fewer players in the Premier League than any other manager this season, and the likes of Jack Grealish and Nathan Ake - once disregarded by some as needless purchases - have come into their own as genuinely important members of the dressing room.

Rice, no doubt, would undergo a similar process, but because of the efficiency with which Guardiola operates, there would have to be questions over whether or not City even need him. Assuming that we’re taking the England international to be a defensive midfielder and a defensive midfielder alone, Pep already has Rodri and the aforementioned Phillips. Perhaps there is a sequence of events in which the latter is sold this summer, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him stay, and if he did, suddenly you’re asking where the regular minutes are coming from? Two players competing for a spot and rotating over the course of a domestic and continental campaign is sound; three is not, especially when one of the three is literally Rodri.

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Taking all of that into account - and considering that West Ham are likely to demand around £100 million for their talisman - if things stay as they are, perhaps Rice, and City, should look elsewhere.


And that leaves Arsenal. This time last year, the proclamation that the Gunners could be frontrunners (that rhymes) to sign Rice might have been met with a little, involuntary snort of derision and some gentle mockery. Now, however, it makes perfect sense.

Think about it - is there a more exciting young squad with a greater chance of sustained future success in English football right now than the one Mikel Arteta is building currently? I think not. And what’s more, everything that would be lacking elsewhere, he could find in abundance at the Emirates.

He would walk into a dressing room that is quite literally founded on the kind of stability and long-term vision so sorely lacking at Chelsea. He would stroll into a starting spot in the centre of the park, unlike at City. He would be under pressure and scrutiny to perform, yes, but not in the same desperate, clawing manner that he might be at United.

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Rice could stay in London, join a side who have been the best in the country for a considerable swathe of this season, and be assured of the Champions League football that he is so evidently ready for. It is, in the opinion of this humble bozo, a no-brainer. As such, I await his inevitable deadline day scarf pic outside St. James’ Park with dreadful anticipation.

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