It seems that one of Declan Rice’s problems is not so much his own characteristics as how much it will cost them.
A year ago, West Ham manager David Moyes said £100m would be cheap for an England midfielder and over £150m would be a more accurate representation of his valuation.
Even now, with 12 months left on his contract, that figure may have dropped slightly, but any negotiations with West Ham are expected to begin to secure a record fee for a centre-half.
The price to beat is now £107m following World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez’s move to Chelsea in January.
And the earnings associated with acquiring a player for such a transfer amount will not be cheap either.
This summer, West Ham will be looking for over £100m for their midfielder Declan Rice
Rice has been linked with Manchester United and Chelsea in recent years
Roy Keane questioned whether he was worth that amount given his performances
For Roy Keane, a man who knows a thing or two about playing top-level midfield, the numbers just don’t add up.
There are rumors that he will leave for a lot of money and go to one of the bigger clubs that will fight for trophies and play in the Champions League. He has to do a lot more, it’s as simple as that,” he said, typically bluntly judging the West Ham captain before the FA Cup defeat to Manchester United.
“I don’t think he’s been great this season, I don’t think he’s really kicked. With all the talk about him, a lot of good PR from West Ham about how much he’s been working, I think he needs to do a lot more. He doesn’t score enough goals, he doesn’t get enough assists.
“I was a fan of him, he shows up every week, he’s in shape, but I want a little more from him.
“Sometimes I see games at West Ham, I’m not saying he’s playing badly, but sometimes he just moves, sideways, backwards, taking the easy option. He needs to do a lot more to match some of the best midfielders in the country.
Which for some who are in the Rice debate is the crux of the matter – is he worth much more than some of his central midfield counterparts?
It is not easy to answer factors such as age, time left on contract, experience and negotiating positions of both the selling and buying clubs among those that affect transfer fees and meaning transfers may not always be fairly compared.
Even nationality can come into play, that is the added value of native players moving between English clubs.
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As far as what is under his control, his performances on the pitch, Rice is at least equal, excels in some categories but has work to do in others.
He is solid as noted by Keane, playing more league minutes than he can be compared, such as Rodri from Manchester City (signing for £63m), Thomas Partey from Arsenal (£45m), Casemiro from Manchester United (£70m) , Fernandez and his England team-mate Jude Bellingham, a different type of player but one who could also be among the great midfielders to come through this summer.
Only Bellingham has scored more league goals, only Fernandez has created more chances overall and per game, and Rice excels in possession, interception and is the cleanest striker of all, conceding the fewest fouls overall and per game.
However, he does the fewest tackles per game, only Bellingham making fewer passes per league game, while Keane was right to emphasize assists, with only Partey rebounding less than Rice, though this is of course a measure influenced by teammates’ scoring ability.
Rice holds his own in terms of passing accuracy and matchup success.
All of this adds up to the image of a player who can stand alongside some of his midfield rivals, though not a head above them.
Rice has some stats better than Manchester United midfielder Casemiro
The Hammers star also compares favorably with Arsenal’s Thomas Partey in some categories
But then there’s the eye test, and Rice fans will have to determine if, once added to their squads, they see a player beyond the stats who can have the kind of transformative impact one would expect from the characters advertised. There are some intangibles that numbers can’t capture.
While the fee for Fernandez may have officially set a new benchmark, West Ham already had Rice at that level.
And they have the right to demand whatever they want – he’s their player, a key player at that, one they’ve developed into their captain and still have a price contract reflecting his value to them.
However, this is also one Rice that will be judged, and not just what it produces on the field.