Forget Jude Bellingham, Declan Rice Could Be The Midfield Target Of The Summer

The West Ham midfielder could spark a transfer frenzy
11:00, 25 Feb 2023

Jude Bellingham is one of the most sought after midfielders in world football. The Borussia Dortmund starlet has racked up 119 club appearances by the age of just 19, while he has also represented England at two international tournaments. Bellingham ticks so many boxes and it is easy to see why he is on the shopping list of most major European sides for the upcoming summer transfer window. 

But, there is only one Jude Bellingham. Less a terrace chant than a biological fact, ultimately the Stourbridge-born superstar can only play for one team. But for the clubs that miss out on Bellingham’s signature there could be some good news. While Declan Rice’s impending availability will be music to the ears of clubs seeking a top midfielder, West Ham United fans will be less pleased.


Rice has been linked with a move away from the Hammers several times in the last few years. A return to Chelsea, where he started as a youth player, has long been touted. But Rice’s name was also invoked several times during Manchester United’s long search for a quality holding midfielder. That talk has quietened now with Casemiro arriving at Old Trafford. But there is still reported interest from several sides.

A bidding war for Rice could end up being one of the stories of the summer window. The reason 2023 looks likely to bring about Declan’s departure is the impending threat of West Ham’s relegation. If the Hammers do go down, then a feeding frenzy is sure to follow. While Rice is a loyal and beloved member of the West Ham side, the captain no less, he will still harbour loftier ambitions than a season in the Championship.

At the age of 24, Rice is on the precipice of his prime. While there is no doubting his commitment to the club, even die-hard Hammers would surely not expect him to stay. With the loss of Premier League revenues bound to bite the club in the pocket too, cashing in on a prized asset is beneficial for everyone.


Even if Rice limits himself to a Premier League move, rather than looking further field, he could find himself spoilt for choice. Chelsea’s interest is reportedly undimmed, despite spending a British record transfer fee on fellow midfielder Enzo Fernandez last month. With Jorginho having left the club and question marks surrounding the long-term fitness of N’golo Kante, there is room for Rice at Stamford Bridge. The player himself is reportedly keen on seeing to his unfinished business in west London.

Chelsea are not the only team in the capital who have been cited as having an interest in the player. League leaders Arsenal are apparently eyeing Rice as the next stage of their youthful rebuild. While manager Mikel Arteta has reinvented Granit Xhaka, inspiring the 30-year-old to his best Gunners displays, Rice would align more closely with the club’s future aims. Arteta is building a team around youth and at 24, Rice combines that with 227 club games of experience.

Don’t count United out just yet either. While Casemiro seems to have solved a long-term issue for the Red Devils, their midfield still needs work. Marcel Sabitzer is only at Old Trafford on loan while Fred and Scott McTominay still come with question marks. Rice and Casemiro could operate together alongside an attack-minded third man like Christian Eriksen or Bruno Fernandes.

Liverpool are supposed to be close to the front of the queue for Bellingham. But what if the former Birmingham City star opts for a move elsewhere? Perhaps a long-rumoured La Liga switch to Real Madrid? Jurgen Klopp’s side are in desperate need of midfield reinforcements and would have tens of millions in unspent Bellingham cash in their pockets. Could the Merseyside giants use it to elbow their way to the front of the queue?

The richest Premier League team of all in terms of owner’s resources is Newcastle United. The Magpies have also been credited with an interest in Rice. Eddie Howe’s side would likely be a tempting proposition not only financially but also in the event they qualify for the Champions League, which remains a distinct possibility. Newcastle can’t boast the historic achievements of Liverpool but the pull of a place in Europe might be attractive to Rice.

Of course West Ham could stay up and their fanbase will not thank me for speculating on what may happen if they don’t. They currently sit one point from safety but only two points off the bottom. This season’s relegation battle is tight. If West Ham stay up then Rice may choose to remain in situ and help get his team back to the European places. If he does so it will make the potential transfers discussed here moot.

But if the Hammers do go down then you can expect Rice to be the subject of a summer-stealing saga. After all, there’s only one Jude Bellingham to go round. That leaves several of the world’s biggest clubs with a hole in their midfield and money to spend. Let the bidding begin.

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