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EXCLUSIVE: Arsenal open Declan Rice talks with West Ham
Rice made it clear in January that he favours a summer transfer to Arsenal, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool all having been linked with the 24-year-old in recent months.
Sources have indicated to FootballTransfers, though, that the Gunners have taken the initiative in the race for Rice by speaking to the Hammers, who had previously indicated that they would not discuss the future of the player before the end of the season.
It is FootballTransfers understanding that details such as the fee and the structure of the payment were discussed last week.
While Arsenal have spoken to West Ham, there has not been any direct contact from the Emirates club with Rice or his representatives since January.
This respects the wishes of both the player and the club, who want the ex-Chelsea academy star to remain focused on both the Premier League and the Europa Conference League.
Arsenal willing for part-exchange deal
West Ham are set to demand a huge transfer fee for Rice, with a British record figure having been mooted by David Moyes’ side.
Arsenal, though, could try to drive this figure down by including a player in the deal.
Although it is unclear who this might be, West Ham are known to be looking at a striker and manager David Moyes is a fan of Folarin Balogun, who is on loan at Ligue 1 side Reims.
FootballTransfers has previously reported that Arsenal are unwilling to part with Balogun – aside from in exceptional circumstances. The opportunity to drive Rice’s price down to a more palatable figure could be seen as just this.
A West Ham move for Balogun, though, could hinge on the future of Moyes at the club, which remains unclear.
What is certain, though, is that Arsenal are stepping up their pursuit of Rice ahead of the transfer window opening next month.