Six midfielders who could replace Declan Rice at West Ham

Declan Rice is closing in on a record-breaking move to Arsenal after the Gunners agreed a fee with West Ham for the club captain.

Rice is set to become the most expensive British footballer of all time should his £105m move to the Emirates be finalised without problem and will leave a gaping hole in the West Ham midfield.

The 24-year-old captained the club to Europa Conference League success last season and replacing his influence will be difficult for David Moyes and his recruitment team, who may look to sign multiple midfielders this transfer window.

Six midfielders who could replace Declan Rice at West Ham.

Joao Palhinha

Joao Palhinha’s name has been linked with West Ham as a potential Rice replacement, following an outstanding first season in the Premier League at Fulham.

Palhinha signed for the promoted side from Sporting Lisbon last summer and made an immediate impact, leading the Premier League for total tackles and duels won as Fulham secured a top-half finish on their return to the division.

The Portugal international was a pivotal part of a successful season for Marco Silva’s side and made his presence felt, with no midfielder in Europe’s top seven leagues making more tackles than the 27-year-old last season.

Rice’s regaining of possession has been vital for West Ham and the England international led the Premier League for ball recoveries in 2022/23. Palhinha is among the few names in the division who can match Rice when it comes to ball-winning at the base of the midfield, while he has a powerful presence that David Moyes often looks for in central midfield. He ranked in the 92nd percentile of midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues for aerial duels won last season.

That sort of impact however, means it will cost a huge free to prise Palhinha from Craven Cottage.

Denis Zakaria

Denis Zakaria is another name understood to be on West Ham’s shortlist with the midfielder free to leave Juventus this summer.

The Switzerland international spent last season on loan at Chelsea and failed to make an impact during an injury-hit season, but showed signs of his quality when given a brief run in the side. Zakaria could be available for a cut-price fee after being deemed surplus to requirements and is an arrival that could have huge upside.

The 26-year-old was regarded as one of the Bundesliga’s best box-to-box presences during a successful spell at Borussia Monchengladbach, form which saw Zakaria linked with the Premier League’s elite before his move to Juventus.

If the midfielder can overcome the fitness issues that plagued him last season, he could prove an astute pick-up for the right fee.

James Ward-Prowse

Southampton’s relegation from the Premier League means James Ward-Prowse is expected to move on this summer, as the 28-year-old looks to keep alive his hopes of earning an England recall.

Ward-Prowse appears an ideal fit for West Ham, given David Moyes’ side’s strength from set-pieces and his reputation as one of the best dead-ball specialists in world football.

That technique, coupled with a commendable work-ethic and experience in captaining a Premier League side appear to make Ward-Prowse a sensible option to bring in as a replacement for Rice.

Southampton have placed a price-tag north of £40m on the midfielder, a figure which has dissuaded top-flight clubs from firming up interest. Expect a compromise to be found that allows Ward-Prowse to move on before the end of the transfer window, after 409 appearances of dedicated service at St Mary’s.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

Tottenham are understood to be open to allowing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to leave the club this summer, a scenario which comes as a surprise given his role in north London across the last three seasons.

The Denmark international has been a regular in the side since signing from Southampton, but the presence of Rodrigo Bentancur, Yves Bissouma and emerging duo Oliver Skipp and Pape Matar Sarr have led to suggestions that Hojbjerg could move on.

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The 27-year-old is a combative figure in central midfield and compares favourably on several metrics when compared to Rice. Hojbjerg completed more passes (58.1 – 50.7) at a higher completion percentage (88.2% – 86.2%) than Rice last season, and produced similar, albeit inferior, numbers for tackles won (0.86 – 1.04) and interceptions (1.41 – 1.73) per 90 minutes.

For the right price, he could be a sensible addition brought across the capital to add leadership and bite to the West Ham midfield.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher has no shortage of admirers across the Premier League after a brilliant season on loan at Crystal Palace in 2021/22.

Gallagher returned to Chelsea last summer after being named as the Eagles’ Player of the Season, but struggled to make the same impact during a disastrous campaign for the west Londoners. He made just 18 league starts and scored three goals, failing to cement his place in the side on a regular basis.

The 23-year-old was subject of an approach from Everton in January and has also been linked with Newcastle and Palace, with a sense that Chelsea would be prepared to cash-in on the academy graduate if a suitable offer arrives.

Full of endeavour and goal threat when breaking forward from midfield, his dynamism would help compensate for the loss of Rice, who has evolved into one of the best box-to-box players in the division. Gallagher will want assurances from new manager Mauricio Pochettino on his status before a decision is made on his future, with a place in the England squad for next summer’s European Championship at stake.

Edson Alvarez

West Ham have been handed a boost in their pursuit of Edson Alvarez after Borussia Dortmund’s move for the Ajax midfielder collapsed.

West Ham had been linked with a move to sign the Mexico international, but a deal appeared to have stalled as Borussia Dortmund closed in on an agreement. The Bundesliga side looked set to sign the 25-year-old in a £30m deal, but have now withdrawn from the race for Alvarez despite reaching an agreement on personal terms.

Alvarez has made 147 appearances across four seasons at Ajax and has twice won the Eredivisie title, but the midfielder is understood to be keen on a new challenge.

Alvarez – who can also feature at centre-back – was a standout in an otherwise disappointing campaign for Ajax. He led the Eredivisie for ball carries (5m+) and ranked second behind team-mate Jurrien Timber for for progressive carries in excess of 10m and successful passes (2,129).

Read – Six strikers who could replace Harry Kane at Tottenham

Read Also – Ranking the six most expensive midfielders in football history

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