When West Ham managed to defeat Man U on Sunday courtesy of a
wicked rabbit-chaser feeble touch past de Gea, my first thought was, “well, that’s relegation avoided for the Hammers, then. Rice will be staying”. After all, the result put them seven points from the drop-zone, thus staving off the need to sell prized assets while they still could. However, the news out of Stratford is that Rice could be made available for £100m plus a player or two. While at first blush that price tag seems steep, the reality is that this is the water in which we’re all treading. I have a new notions about swimming…
We’ve spent on average about £150m in the last few windows, opting for bargain-ish buys that haven’t exceeded the £60m mark. It might then feel a bit off to then plump for something close to that for one player. However, thanks in no small part to Chelsea’s spending under Boehly (to which we may have to add Newcastle’s and Man U’s), this year’s £100m is the £50m of just a few years ago. What’s more, we’re no longer a desperate club looking for bargains. With apologies to Tierney, we’re no longer shopping at Tesco. Other clubs will see us looking for top-shelf talent with the accompanying price-tags.
Let’s say that West Ham actually mean it when they say they’ll let Rice leave for £120m. Negotiations make for strange bedfellows, after all. While that might gobble up a large proportion of our entirely reliably reported £150m war-chest, we do have options at nibbling away at that reported ransom. Let’s say we offer Albert Sambi Lokonga. He’s, um, Prem-proven and has done fairly well for himself on loan to Palace. Let’s be conservative and value him at £10m. We’re not quite cooking with gas, but it’s a start. We could offer Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who might be worth another £8-10m. Not sold yet? Let’s add in Marquinhos, who just might may be worth another £10m.
We’re now looking at a package deal that would give West Ham three players worth £30m, give or take. Assuming that drives Rice’s transfer fee down, we’re now looking at an asking price £90m. Rice wants to leave. He sees what Arsenal are up to and what compatriots like Saka, White, and Ramsdale are achieving. What’s more, he sees that Xhaka (30), Partey (29 until he’s 30), and Jorginho (31) are all getting long in the tooth. While he might not simply waltz into our Xi, he’d have to know that he’d rotate and then dominate the DM role without having to drag a squad full of deadweight away from relegation.
We can offer a lot of enticements to the player. At the club level, we may have to offer just a bit more. It might be painful to consider splashing £80m or more on one player, but that’s the reality of this modern world.