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Arsenal sign ‘exceptional’ Declan Rice from West Ham for record fee

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LONDON: Declan Rice became Britain’s most expensive player on Saturday as Arsenal signed the midfielder from West Ham United, with manager Mikel Arteta describing the England international as an “exceptional talent”.

Financial details of the transfer were not disclosed but British media reported that the fee for the 24-year-old was 105 million pounds ($137.45 million), making it a record transfer between two British clubs.

Rice’s blockbuster move surpassed the previous record 100 million fee paid by Manchester City for Jack Grealish in 2021 as Arsenal continue their spending spree in a bid to challenge for the Premier League title next season.

Rice also became Arsenal’s most expensive signing, eclipsing the 72 million pounds they paid Lille for Nicolas Pepe in 2019, but the fee falls short of the 107 million pounds Chelsea paid to sign Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez this year.

He said in a letter to West Ham supporters his desire to play at the “very highest level” lay behind his decision to join Arsenal.

Rice’s switch to the Emirates Stadium on a long-term contract comes just months after he lifted West Ham’s first major trophy since 1980 in the Europa Conference League final against Fiorentina.

Having moved across London, Rice will now be competing for the Champions League rather than Europe’s third tier trophy.

“In football, amazing opportunities arise. Big clubs, like Arsenal, have come for me and it’s really hard to turn down,” Rice told Arsenal’s website. “You only ever get one career and I really believe in what Mikel [Arteta] is building here and the squad he’s building. I’m really looking forward to the future with Arsenal.”

Fuelled by their agonising failure to hold off champions Manchester City in the Premier League title race last term, Arsenal have already spent around 200 million since the end of last season in a bid to improve on their second-place finish.

He becomes their third signing of this transfer window after Kai Havertz from Chelsea and defender Jurrien Timber from Ajax Amsterdam.

Arsenal have not won the title since Arsene Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ in 2004, but they made huge strides under Arteta last season.

They led the Premier League table for much of the season before collapsing in the final weeks as City overhauled them.

“He is a player with tremendous ability, who has been performing at a high level in the Premier League and for England for a number of seasons now,” Arteta said in a statement. “Declan is bringing undoubted quality to the club and he is an exceptional talent who has the potential to be very successful here.”

Hammers joint chairman David Sullivan insisted Saturday the club had wanted to keep Rice but were hamstrung by an agreement allowing him to leave after he rejected the offer of a lucrative new deal.

“I would like to make it clear to our supporters that we did not want to sell Declan,” said Sullivan. “We wanted to build our team around him and made a series of improved, long-term contract offers to secure his future.”

Hammers manager David Moyes, thanking Rice for all he had done at the club, added: “Obviously it is sad when we say goodbye to someone who has been with us for so long but we must now look forward.”

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2023


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