Declan Rice has just made the short move from West Ham to Arsenal and the Gunners have had to pay through their noses to land the England midfielder. A monster fee of £100m plus up to £5m in add-ons is what it took Mikel Arteta’s Gunners to get their man. But the big question on everyone’s lips has to be: is he worth it?
Everyone knows inflation in 2023 has been on the high side. But even that can’t be blamed for pushing Declan Rice’s value over the £100m mark. After all, this is not a player with a decade of experience at the top level under his belt (he’s made 204 Premier League appearances) and he’s not a World Cup winner (although, to be fair, he wasn’t far away!). In fact, the only trophy the 24-year-old has won in his professional career was the UEFA Europa Conference League with West Ham at the end of the 2022/23 season. So, how can he be worth that much?
In this article, we’ll attempt to answer that question by taking a look at the few other footballers who’ve cost at least £100m. Then we’ll explain what it is Rice brings to the table and why Arteta was so determined to make him an Arsenal player.
Everything’s Relative: The (Other) £100m Men
If we assume Rice’s fee will rise to the full £105m, as things stand there have only be six players who have cost more than him:
|Kylian Mbappe||£163m||Monaco||Paris Saint-Germain||2018|
|João Félix||£113m||Benfica||Atletico Madrid||2019|
|Antoine Griezmann||£107m||Atletico Madrid||Barcelona||2019|
|Philippe Coutinho||£105m+ bonuses||Liverpool||Barcelona||2018|
*Fees are approximate based on rough exchange rates at the times of the transfers
Some big names there, to say the least. But it’s interesting to note some of those players who have been purchased for less cash than Arsenal splashed on Rice. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo (£88m in 2018), Paul Pogba (£89m in 2016) and Gareth Bale (£86m in 2013) are notably cheaper. More recently, England star, Jude Bellingham, went from Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid in June 2023 with the Spanish giants paying just over £88m, which many people suggest is a bargain for the 20-year-old.
Not every big-money move is successful, of course, and the jury is certainly out on Chelsea’s record-breaking signing Enzo Fernández. But Mikel Arteta is a shrewd manager and there are many reasons we think he sees Rice as a very valuable addition to his team, even at that astronomical price.
What Will Rice Add to Arsenal?
Many players who get big-money moves are the flair players, the ones who score the goals, provide the assists and get fans excited about what they might do next. Players like Neymar, Ronaldo and Mbappe, who will add plenty to the merchandising coffers as well as to their team’s chances of winning trophies, are examples of this type of signing. But that’s not so much the case with Rice, who has only scored 15 times for West Ham in 248 appearances and only bagged three for England over his 43 caps.
High Standards, Leadership & Commitment
But what Rice does bring is consistently high standards, leadership, commitment to the cause and a handy knack of being in the right place at the right time to disrupt opposition attacks. Rice plays in a similar way to former Arsenal great, Patrick Viera, who was renowned for being tenacious, aggressive and effective. Despite being characterised as a defensive midfielder, Rice is very comfortable on the ball and although he doesn’t tend to provide too many assists, he often begins attacks that eventually lead to shots on goal. He also has one of the best pass completion rates in the Premier League and is in the top 10 players in terms of both passes made and tackles made (in the Premier League during the 2022/23 season).
One stat for which Rice tops the table (in the Premier League in 2022/23) is for inceptions made. Rice made a total of 63 successful interceptions over the course of his final league season for West Ham, seven more than his nearest rival (Brighton’s Moisés Caicedo, with his club recently rejecting a bid of £70m from Chelsea). Although this is not as noticeable a stat as goals or assists, Arteta and his team have obviously noticed and they clearly place a lot of stock in Rice’s ability to break up attacks, especially against the best teams and players around.
It becomes particularly apparent when comparing Rice’s interception count to those of the best Arsenal players (by that measure). In each of the last four seasons, Rice has made around double the number of interceptions achieved by the best Arsenal player in that season.
Will Rice Be a Success … And, Will Arsenal?
Of course, when a team splashes a nine-figure fee on a player, they want – or even demand – a return on that investment. So will Rice help bring real success to Arsenal? And by that we mean, will he help the Gunners win the Premier League and/or the Champions League? Based on Rice’s skillset – those mentioned above along with his general athleticism, ability to read the game and speed – he will certainly help Arsenal move in that direction.
But there are no assurances in football and often titles can be decided by very fine margins. Arsenal found that out when stumbling at the end of the 2022/23 PL campaign and also back in the 2006 Champions League when an early red card for their keeper, Jens Lehmann, effectively scuppered things for them.
However good Arsenal are, they will also find it very difficult to compete with the likes of Manchester City in the Premier League and a whole host of top teams in Europe. But we feel the addition of Rice to the Gunners’ squad will certainly make it less difficult to reach the necessary levels to win the biggest competitions. He will also improve those around him and raise the standards off the pitch too. And, if indeed Rice does prove the missing piece to Arteta’s Arsenal jigsaw, there will be no doubt in the minds of Arsenal fans: Rice will have been worth every penny of the £105m!