West Ham are planning for life without Arsenal transfer target Declan Rice as they concede that signing one replacement for their captain is not feasible.
Rice is expected to finally leave West Ham this summer after lifting the Europa Conference League trophy as captain in his last game.
Hammers chairman David Sullivan has admitted Rice “set his heart on going” at the end of the current season, with a number of clubs pursuing the midfielder.
Sullivan added that, “in due course, he has to get on and we have to get a replacement – or several replacements,” with reports on Friday morning expanding on those plans.
The Daily Telegraph claim there to be ‘an acceptance inside West Ham they will not be able to replace Rice’s qualities with one player,’ with Sam Dean and Matt Law revealing two targets ‘to form a new-look midfield’.
They say James Ward-Prowse of Southampton is an option to ‘offer more creativity and goalscoring threat from set-pieces,’ while stepping up to help fill any leadership shortage in the event of Rice’s departure.
Ajax player Edson Alvarez is another player West Ham will consider, as he ‘is more defensive minded’ and ‘physically imposing’ in the Rice mould, down to his versatility as a centre-half or central midfielder.
Borussia Dortmund are also interested in the Mexico international.
The Telegraph also say that while West Ham like Kalvin Phillips – they bid £50m to sign him from Leeds in January 2022 – the England midfielder ‘wants to stay at Manchester City for at least another season’.
The Daily Mail do name Phillips as one player on West Ham’s shortlist in their own transfer report, as well as ‘No 1 target’ Joao Palhinha of Fulham and Man Utd squad player Scott McTominay.
Another ‘top target’ for West Ham – albeit not in central midfield – is Leicester winger Harvey Barnes, who the Telegraph suggest may be available for around £30m after relegation.
Aston Villa, Tottenham and Newcastle would provide competition for Barnes’ signature if he is to leave.
Doubt has been cast on Arsenal’s ability to afford Declan Rice but the Gunners themselves have plans in place if he does arrive.
Granit Xhaka has agreed terms on a £13m move to Bayer Leverkusen on the condition Arsenal do sign Rice in what would be a club record, if not British record move.