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West Ham director makes admission over midfielder’s future

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West Ham sporting director Mark Noble has admitted that in-demand midfielder Declan Rice may need to leave the club to fulfil his ambitions.

The 24-year-old, who has long been recognised as one of England’s top players, is in the final 18 months of his current Hammers contract, which also includes a 12-month extension clause, and has turned down a number of offers of fresh terms.

Rice is understood to be keen to play in the Champions League and play at the highest level, with sources confirming to 90min that Premier League leaders Arsenal are ready to rival Chelsea for the signing of the Blues’ former academy talent.

Publicly, West Ham manager David Moyes has vowed that Rice would only be sold for a British transfer record, which currently sits at the £106m Chelsea paid to land Enzo Fernandez in January, although their negotiating power has not been helped by the Hammers’ fall to 16th in the league standings.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, sporting director Noble admitted he understands Rice’s interest in moving and conceded that a transfer may be the 24-year-old’s only option.

“It’s just the world we live in,” he said. “We’re West Ham and these players want to go out and play Champions League football – and do you blame them?

“Dec is no different. Dec will always be hailed at West Ham as a fantastic player and such a top, top person. But I don’t think anyone begrudges him wanting to go and win things. We just hope he’ll keep performing like he has been over the last month or so.

“Wherever Declan ends up, or however much someone pays for him, whether it’s here or anywhere else, he’s worth every penny.

“He’s said openly he loves playing at West Ham, but he has got ambitions as a player to go and play in the Champions League and win trophies. I don’t think any West Han fan can actually have an agenda over that.

“Do you blame him for having really big ambitions? Of course you don’t. If he didn’t, he probably wouldn’t be as good as he is.”

Both Arsenal and Chelsea are expected to lodge bids for Rice at the end of the season, while Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United are all long-term admirers and will consider offers of their own.

Listen to Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, as Scott Saunders hosts Graeme Bailey and Toby Cudworth to wrap up the January transfer window and discuss Enzo Fernandez, Moises Caicedo, Marcel Sabitzer, Hakim Ziyech’s failed PSG move and more. If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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