Saturday 21 September 2019

England move for Declan Rice as West Ham contract saga comes to an end

Soccer

Hammer time: Declan Rice signs new deal. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA
Hammer time: Declan Rice signs new deal. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA

John Fallon

After clarifying his club future yesterday by agreeing a five-year contract extension at West Ham United, Declan Rice is set to tackle his international dilemma and it doesn't look good for Ireland.

Rice recently met with new Ireland manager Mick McCarthy and his assistant Robbie Keane to discuss whether he'd resume his Ireland career but it appears he's veering towards a switch to his homeland of England.

While the FAI remain confident of Rice sticking with Ireland, the nation he represented at every underage level and in three senior friendlies, England manager Gareth Southgate is believed to be increasingly hopeful of the 19-year-old coming aboard.

Unless he applies to FIFA in the next week to switch allegiance, Rice would not have his international transfer completed in time to make his England debut in their Euro 2020 qualification opener against Czech Republic in late March.

His employers at West Ham were mightily relieved to have Rice pledge his medium-term future to the club he joined at 15 after being released by his boyhood idols Chelsea. Although there was pressure to offer him an improved contract, the player, who turns 20 in a fortnight, was already contracted to West Ham until 2020, with the club having an option to extend further.

Negotiations have continued for some time to improve Rice's current contract, worth £3,000 (€3,330) a week. In September he turned down an appearance-related offer that would have earned him £40,000 (€44,000) a week.

The new deal, which was agreed on Christmas Day, reflects Rice's importance to West Ham, who regard him as a future club captain.

The contract takes him up to the summer of 2024 and includes an option to extend for a further 12 months. Overall, the package could be worth £12m (€13.3m) in wages alone.

Rice recently passed 50 first-team appearances for the club, mainly as a holding midfielder, yet his future is expected to be as a central defender.

His latest masterclass came in their 2-1 win over Southampton on Thursday, the fourth victory in five matches for the Hammers.

"I'm absolutely delighted to have got the contract done, signed and to commit my future to the club until 2024. I'm ecstatic," Rice said.

"Without a doubt, the plan was always to stay at West Ham. I've had the support from the fans, players and from the manager and now, to get it over the line and commit myself to this club is a special moment.

"I've now played 50 games for the first team and I'm progressing week in, week out. I'm still young, so to put more years on my contract and keep developing here is the best thing for me. With the support of the manager, the players, everyone, it was the right thing to do."

Joint-chairman David Sullivan said: "Signing Declan to a new long-term contract is something we have been planning for. I finalised the deal on Christmas Day and have been working to get the paperwork done as quickly as possible."

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