Pundit Noel Whelan claims that there is still potential for Manchester City to pull off shock move for West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice this summer.
The Lowdown: Replacing departing heroes
It is no secret that Pep Guardiola’s priority this summer is to replace club captain Fernandinho, who has confirmed that he is set to leave the club after nine years at the Etihad Stadium.
There have been several names touted to replace the departing Brazilian, with the most notable thus far being Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips, who has been strongly linked to a move to the Premier League champions.
However, with reports coming out last week that Ilkay Gundogan is also potentially departing in the summer, it leaves the door open for Guardiola to explore more premium options, with Rice’s name the latest being mentioned.
The Latest: Door is open for Rice
Speaking to Football Insider, former Leeds forward Noel Whelan claims that West Ham’s failure to qualify for next season’s Europa League leaves the door open for City to pursue the Englishman, especially if Gundogan joins Fernandinho in leaving the Citizens. He said:
“You can never rule out Man City doing a massive piece of business at any given time.
“It’s all clicking into place, isn’t it? These two [Fernandinho and Gundogan] could potentially both leave, West Ham missed out on the Europa League – the door is open.
“If they can offload Fernandinho and Gundogan that will free up a wage.
“City can go out and offer that to Rice – but there’s also the question of fee.
“The money is always there at Man City – and Pep Guardiola always gets what he wants.”
The Verdict: They already have Rodri
The issue would be in signing Rice, an in demand player who already has a market value £67.5m according to Transfermarkt, for City is that they already have a similar player in their squad in Rodri.
The Spaniard has been one of the best players in the league this season, boasting a 7.44 average WhoScored match rating, and predominantly plays as a lone defensive midfielder in Guardiola’s 4-3-3 system, with Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva, two attack minded midfielders, either side of him.
Rice, meanwhile, tends to play in a duo in midfield for the Hammers, partnering Tomas Soucek in David Moyes’ 4-2-3-1 system, so has shown his capability of playing in a pivot as potential partner for Rodri, but the chances of the former Barcelona boss catering his system at the Etihad to fit the England international and the former Atletico Madrid man in the same team is unlikely, so either way they would be limiting each other’s game time as they would become rotation options.
In signing a Fernandinho replacement, they would need a player with more versatility, which makes Kalvin Phillips a more obvious target than the 23-year-old.
With his performances in a Rodri-esque defensive midfield role for Leeds, and often playing further forward on the right side of a midfield three for England, the 26-year-old has more versatility, and ultimately would be better value for money as he would likely cost considerably less than the 2022 Hammer of the Year winner.
And in other news, City target another 23-year-old star.