Declan Rice’s ambition to play “at the very highest level” was behind his “tough” decision to leave West Ham.

The 24-year-old’s departure from the club he joined a decade ago in a club-record £105million deal – making him the most expensive English player in history – was confirmed by the Hammers ahead of his imminent move to Arsenal.

Rice’s last act as a West Ham player was to become only the third captain in their history, behind Bobby Moore and Billy Bonds, to lift a major trophy after last month’s Europa Conference League victory over Fiorentina.

But the England international wants to play in the Champions League and that is something Arsenal can offer.

In a letter to fans, Rice said his goodbyes after “an absolute whirlwind of emotion” over the last few weeks.

“I want you to know how tough a decision it has been for me to leave an environment that I have loved and cherished so much,” he said.

“This club and its supporters will always be in my heart, and forever a part of who I am.

“Ultimately, though, it has only ever been about my ambition to play at the very highest level of the game.

“Playing on the opposite team to West Ham for the first time will be an unusual experience.

“I’m not sure yet exactly how I will feel, but I also know you will all understand and respect that my professional loyalties have to now lie with my new club.”

Joint-chairman David Sullivan revealed last month the club had a gentleman’s agreement with Rice to allow him to leave this summer after the player turned down the offer of a highly-lucrative new contract.

“I am sorry to see Declan leave us but I believe that everyone at West Ham United should be very proud of the part we have played in his journey from the Academy of Football at Chadwell Heath to becoming the most valuable young player in English football,” he said in a statement.

“I would like to make it clear to our supporters that we did not want to sell Declan. We wanted to build our team around him and made a series of improved, long-term contract offers to secure his future.

“However, once Declan made it clear that he wished to move on and seek a new challenge, the club felt it would not be right to stand in his way, acting in the best interests of West Ham United.”

Rice made 245 appearances for the club, his last helping secure a first trophy since 1980, and manager David Moyes was understandably sad to see him leave.

“I’d like to personally thank Declan for everything he has done during his time at West Ham United,” he said.

“Obviously it is sad when we say goodbye to someone who has been with us for so long but we must now look forward.

“As history shows, no player is ever bigger than the club.

“Our entire focus now is on building upon the success we enjoyed last season, adding to our talented Europa Conference League title-winning squad as we enter our third consecutive season in Europe, and continuing to develop the best young talent through our successful academy.”

West Ham have confirmed captain Declan Rice will leave the club for a “British record fee” – with the midfielder expected to sign for Arsenal imminently.

The Hammers are understood to have been involved in discussions with the Gunners over the structure of a deal for the 24-year-old with the fee expected to be £105million.

“I am sorry to see Declan leave us but I believe that everyone at West Ham United should be very proud of the part we have played in his journey from the Academy of Football at Chadwell Heath to becoming the most valuable young player in English football,” joint-chair David Sullivan said in a statement.

“I would like to make it clear to our supporters that we did not want to sell Declan. We wanted to build our team around him and made a series of improved, long-term contract offers to secure his future.

“However, once Declan made it clear that he wished to move on and seek a new challenge, the club felt it would not be right to stand in his way, acting in the best interests of West Ham United.”

Declan Rice is to undergo a medical at Arsenal following agreement on a fee with West Ham, the PA news agency understands.

The signing of the Hammers captain for £100million plus £5million in add-ons will not only break Arsenal’s own transfer record but also see Rice become the most expensive Englishman in Premier League history.

Arsenal launched their third and final bid last week with an offer which saw champions Manchester City pull out of the race to sign the 24-year-old.

West Ham were not happy with the payment structure of the Arsenal deal but, after further negotiations, it is understood an agreement is in place and Rice is free to discuss personal terms and have his medical ahead of a move to the Emirates Stadium.

Rice, who lifted the Europa Conference League title in what now looks set to be his final West Ham appearance, has been Arsenal’s top target this summer.

He would become the second summer signing for Mikel Arteta’s side, following the addition of Germany forward Kai Havertz from Chelsea, as the Gunners look to go one better than their second-placed finish last season.

Ajax defender Jurrien Timber also remains a priority for the Gunners, who head to Germany for a pre-season training camp later this month.

Arsenal have signed Kai Havertz from Chelsea on a “long-term contract” and have reportedly moved closer to sealing a deal for West Ham captain Declan Rice.

Havertz joins after three years with the Blues, during which he made 139 appearances, scoring 32 goals, including the winner in the 2021 Champions League final.

The news regarding the 24-year-old Germany international comes as it was reported that Arsenal had also agreed a £105million fee with West Ham for Rice.

Havertz said on Arsenal’s official website: “It’s super exciting for me to be joining this amazing club and to be part of the Arsenal family. This club has such a big history, and I hope we can achieve lots of things.

“The mentality in the Arsenal squad is very high and you can feel that. That was one of the reasons why it has been so hard to play against Arsenal recently.

“The aim is to win trophies and I’m going to give everything to do that for the supporters and everyone at the club. I’m now looking forward to meeting all the players and the staff when we come back for pre-season.”

Manchester City have ended their interest in Declan Rice after Arsenal made an improved £105million bid for the West Ham captain.

The PA news agency understands the Gunners made their latest offer for the 24-year-old England international on Tuesday after two previous approaches were rebuffed by the Hammers.

It was also reported City had a bid totalling £90m knocked back and the treble winners have now decided not to match or try to better Arsenal’s proposition.

It is believed the Gunners have offered £100m and a further £5m in potential add-ons. It would make Rice the most expensive British player of all time and eclipses Arsenal’s previous record transfer.

It is understood West Ham are unhappy with the payment structure put forward but, rather than dismiss the offer out of hand, are now looking to negotiate.

By contrast, Arsenal’s pursuit of Germany forward Kai Havertz has been more straightforward.

With a deal agreed with Chelsea, Havertz underwent a medical over the weekend and is expected to be announced as an Arsenal player within the next 24 hours as footage of his arrival video was leaked on social media.

Meanwhile, a move for Ajax full-back Jurrien Timber is still being worked on as Arsenal aim to improve a squad that finished second last season.

Arsenal have launched a £105million bid to land West Ham skipper Declan Rice – although their London rivals are seeking a faster payment structure before accepting the offer.

The PA news agency understands Arsenal’s third bid, which would see Rice become the most expensive British player of all-time, was made on Tuesday.

It is believed to be a £100million offer with £5million in add-ons, eclipsing Arsenal’s record transfer as the Gunners aim to fend off interest in Rice from Premier League champions Manchester City.

However, it is understood West Ham are unhappy with the payment structure put forward but are looking to negotiate rather than dismiss the offer out of hand.

Arsenal have already had two bids knocked back for Rice, who they have admired for a long time, while City are also now making moves to sign the 24-year-old.

Things have gone much smoother for Arsenal in their pursuit of Germany forward Kai Havertz.

With a deal agreed with Chelsea, Havertz underwent a medical over the weekend and is expected to be announced as an Arsenal player within the next 24 hours as footage of his arrival video was leaked on social media.

Meanwhile, a move for Ajax full-back Jurrien Timber is still being worked on as Arsenal aim to improve on a squad that finished second last season.

 

Though he is still yet to fully absorb West Ham United's UEFA Europa Conference League triumph, Michail Antonio is hoping to add a bit more history to that club success, this time for his country by upsetting the apple cart at the Concacaf Gold Cup with Jamaica's Reggae Boyz.

The 16-team biennial championship for North America, Central America and the Caribbean gets under way at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday, with the Reggae Boyz set to open against reigning seven-time champion United States in Group A, which also includes Trinidad and Tobago and first-timer St Kitts and Nevis.

Antonio, who was instrumental in West Ham's successful run to their first major European honour since 1965 when they defeated Fiorentina 1-0 in the Europa Conference League final earlier this month, said the feeling is still somewhat indescribable, but lifting the Gold Cup would certainly help him snap out of his dreamlike state.

The 36-year-old was the Hammers's top scorer with 14 goals in the season, which he pointed out was the most enjoyable of his eight seasons at the club, and he is now aiming to bring that form to the fore on the international stage.

"Obviously, I know I won the Europa Conference League, but it hasn't set home as yet, but it was amazing feeling celebrating with the Jamaican flag, everyone there was celebrating their country, so I was definitely celebrating mine and the island where my mom grew up and the place where she always brought me from when I was young. 

"So, it (winning the Europa Conference League) was an opportunity for me to have the Jamaican flag around me and I was never going to miss that opportunity. But I'm here now with the Jamaican team and hoping to win another title," Antonio said.

He will have plenty more opportunities to celebrate the black, gold and green, provided all goes accordingly for the Heimir Hallgrimsson-coached Reggae Boyz throughout their campaign.

Should the Jamaicans come out successful at the end of this year’s Gold Cup, it would be their first title in the history of the tournament that started in 1991. They went close in the 2015 and 2017 finals which they lost 3-1 and 2-1 to Mexico and United States respectively. 

Aside from their 2015 upset semi-final win en route to the final, the Reggae Boyz have struggled in games against the United States in the tournament, losing five of their last six meetings, the most recent being in 2019 and 2021, when they went down 3-1 and 1-0 in the semifinals and quarterfinals.

By virtue of those statics, Saturday's opener will by no means be easy, but Antonio seems confident the Boyz will test the mettle of the B.J. Callaghan-coached United States team that is missing some key players, who factored in their recent Concacaf Nations League triumph. 

"It (our build up) has been good, spirits seem high, everyone seems confident, and the training went well. It was my first session with the team and I'm quite positive. Obviously, I've got one cup down and like I said, I am here for another," Antonio reiterated. 

"I am definitely enjoying coming here (into tournaments) and linking up with the boys, we have a good bond now, as the atmosphere and the camaraderie is always good. I enjoy it and we're going to keep going," he added.

With the Reggae Boyz team bolstered by other Premier League attacking talents such as Aston Villa's Leon Bailey, newcomer Demarai Gray of Everton and Fulham's Bobby Reid, Antonio believes the team has enough quality to not only end Hallgrimsson's seven-match winless streak, but more importantly, lay a solid foundation, as they build towards the 2026 World Cup. 

"One thing with the Jamaican team is that there is a lot of potential and quality out there and people are starting to turn up. Obviously quite a few Premier League players are now in the setup, Demarai Gray, Bobby Reid, Me, Bailey, so there are some quality players turning up here," Antonio said. 

"But it is not just the Premier League players, obviously there are a lot of quality players from the Island, Andre Blake, being named keeper of the year last year in the US, so it's a good squad being built," he ended.

 

Fulham are serious contenders in the race for Southampton skipper James Ward-Prowse.

The Cottagers are targeting the midfielder, who is interested in a move to Craven Cottage, the PA news agency understands.

Southampton are likely to ask for close to £30million for their captain – who has three years left on his contract – after relegation from the Premier League last season.

West Ham want Fulham’s Joao Palhinha to replace Declan Rice, which would then see the Cottagers line up Ward-Prowse.

Arsenal have had two bids rejected for Hammers skipper Rice this week, although champions Manchester City are reportedly preparing their own offer.

The Hammers are also interested in England international Ward-Prowse but he would prefer a switch to west London.

The 28-year-old sees Marco Silva’s style as the best fit for him as he looks for a route back to the top flight.

A move to Fulham would also see him link up with former Saints team-mate Harrison Reed, with the pair having come through the academy at St Mary’s.

Brentford, given their threat from set pieces, also held an interest in Ward-Prowse but they were quickly rebuffed by the Saints star.

He will leave the club this summer having been unable to keep Southampton in the Premier League after they finished bottom.

They had three managers as Nathan Jones replaced Ralph Hasenhuttl in November – but lasted just 14 games before being sacked – and Ruben Selles was unable to save the Saints.

Southampton appointed Russell Martin on a three-year deal from Swansea on Wednesday, with the Swans looking to bring Michael Duff in from Barnsley.

Martin will have to mount a promotion charge in the Championship without Ward-Prowse, who has made 409 appearances and scored 55 goals for the Saints and is one goal short of David Beckham’s Premier League free-kick record of 18.

Saints could also lose Romeo Lavia, with the midfielder wanted by Liverpool and Arsenal.

Manuel Lanzini will leave West Ham when his contract expires at the end of June.

The Argentinian midfielder joined the Hammers from United Arab Emirates side Al Jazira in the summer of 2015 and has made 226 appearances, scoring 32 goals.

Lanzini’s most memorable moment was his long-range equaliser at Tottenham in 2020 as West Ham came from 3-0 down to snatch a 3-3 draw.

The 30-year-old has been linked with a return to Argentina and former club River Plate.

Manager David Moyes told the club website: “Manu is a fantastic professional, a really good lad, and whichever club he joins will have an excellent player on their hands.

“We are sorry to see him go, but he deserves the opportunity to play more regularly elsewhere, and we wish him well in his next adventure.”

West Ham have been charged by UEFA following the behaviour of their fans at their midweek Europa Conference League final victory over Fiorentina.

The Serie A side’s captain Cristiano Biraghi sustained a cut head after being hit by one of several plastic cups hurled at him from the end containing Hammers supporters as he went to take a first-half corner.

West Ham have also been charged with an invasion of the field of play.

Fiorentina have landed two charges relating to the lighting of fireworks and throwing of objects.

UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body (CEDB) will decide on the matter in due course.

West Ham enjoyed a heroes’ welcome as fans lined the streets of east London to celebrate their Europa Conference League glory.

The Hammers won their first major trophy since the 1980 FA Cup, and a first European title since 1965, when they beat Italian side Fiorentina 2-1 in Prague on Wednesday night.

And their jubilant supporters, decked out in the famous claret and blue on a warm and sunny evening in the capital, packed the pavements as the Hammers paraded the silverware on an open-top bus.

The squad’s journey started at the site of their former home at Upton Park and finished at Stratford Town Hall, where they enjoyed a reception.

Only West Ham fans of a certain age will ever have seen their side celebrate success like this, with a similar parade being held after that 1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup victory, where the likes of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters got the taste of winning trophies.

But the younger generation made the most of it, climbing on lamp posts and bus stops to get the best vantage point of their heroes while also letting off flares.

David Moyes may have joined Ron Greenwood and John Lyall in earning immortality as managers to win a major trophy with the Hammers but he initially endured a lessened role on the bus, taking pictures of his players as they posed together.

But he was soon joining in with the celebrations, dancing and jigging with the trophy on his head.

 

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Lifting the trophy appears to be a fitting way for captain Declan Rice to bow out, with chairman David Sullivan confirming the England international will be allowed to leave the club this summer, with a bidding war expected to commence soon.

Rice was emotional on top of the bus, admitting it does not feel “real”.

“This is absolutely incredible, when you’re a kid and you love football as much as I do, and the lads do, you see teams having trophy parades,” he said. “I was once a kid watching teams do trophy parades and now to be doing one and captaining the side is just so, so special, I can’t even put into words.

“We knew it would be exciting and the fans would come out, I am just trying to take it all in, we don’t get to experience this ever. These moments don’t come around very often.

“I’ve seen top captains over the years lift trophies and it was my time at West Ham to lift the trophy. It doesn’t really feel real.

“At 24, captain of West Ham lifting a trophy in a European competition, I don’t think it is going to hit me for a while, but I am going to enjoy it and be as happy for as long as possible.

“Bobby Moore, Billy Bonds, I am seeing messages that I am now in that category, I don’t really know what to say. Bizarre.”

Moyes spent much of the season under pressure following a disappointing Premier League campaign, but Rice believes he is now the club’s best-ever manager.

The England midfielder added on Sky Sports News: “I think he goes down as the best manager West Ham have ever had. The circumstances, when he first came in, kept us twice, European competition, we finished fifth, sixth, a semi-final (Europa League) and now we’ve won this, he deserves all the credit he gets.

“He’s a top man and as you can see he is buzzing.”

Jarrod Bowen was West Ham’s hero in the final as he scored a 90th-minute winner, capping off a remarkable turnaround in his career having been playing at non-league Hereford nine years ago after being rejected as a youngster by Aston Villa.

“I love the game and these moments make it all worth it, the rejections and not going the way you want it,” he said.

“You fast forward 10 years and you are on an open-top bus parade for winning a European trophy so from where I have come, my mum was crying on the phone, my dad was there.

“It is a bit surreal to say I have won a European trophy from where I have come from. I love it.”

West Ham striker Michail Antonio believes their Europa Conference League triumph is just the start of bigger things to come.

Jarrod Bowen’s last-minute goal against Fiorentina ended the Hammers’ 43-year wait for a trophy.

Their 2-1 victory also means West Ham will be back in the Europa League next season, the first time they have qualified for Europe three years running.

“It’s massive, it’s massive,” said Antonio. “Moving forward this is not where we are going to stop, we will see if we can keep carrying it on and keep pushing ourselves and keep doing better.

“Last year we got to the semi-finals of the Europa League. This year, we won the Conference League. You can see we have a good pack of boys here, we have got good confidence and hopefully we can build on that.”

Said Benrahma put West Ham ahead from the penalty spot before Giacomo Bonaventura equalised for the Italian side.

But Lucas Paqueta’s ball over the top sent Bowen through on goal to fire the Hammers to European glory.

Full-back Emerson Palmieri revealed manager David Moyes gave a victory speech and, as promised, joined his players in some dancing.

“The gaffer said, ‘thank you for everything, thank you for the title’. Of course he is happy, we are happy. So everyone is happy,” he said.

“If you take the images, when you receive the medal, you need to walk on the podium, he did the dance. It was good – for a Scotsman!”

West Ham chairman David Sullivan has confirmed captain Declan Rice will be allowed to leave this summer and he expects to start receiving bids immediately.

The England midfielder said he did not know if he had played his last game for the club after leading them to Europa Conference League glory.

A 2-1 victory over Fiorentina in Wednesday night’s final saw him become only the third Hammers skipper to lift a major trophy, following Bobby Moore and Billy Bonds.

However, Sullivan admits a gentleman’s agreement means they will allow a player who still has two years remaining on his contract – one year plus an option – to leave.

Asked whether lifting the trophy in Prague was Rice’s last action as a West Ham player, Sullivan told talkSPORT: “I think it has to be. We promised him he could go.

“He set his heart on going and in due course he has to get on and we have to get a replacement.

“It is not something we wanted to happen. We offered him £200,000-a-week 18 months ago and he turned it down. You can’t keep a player who doesn’t want to be there.

“I think the offers will start to come today. Three or four clubs have shown interest but, out of respect to West Ham, while we’re still playing, you don’t make offers for players.”

Rice said after the game that it was “not goodbye yet”.

He added on BT Sport: “Look at the moment there’s a lot of speculation about my future.

“There is interest from other clubs, that’s out there, but ultimately I’ve still got two years left at West Ham.

“There hasn’t been nothing yet (offers). Let’s wait and see, who knows.

“I love every minute of it here, you can see the smile on my face.

“It’s not about that tonight, it’s about celebrating and that’s what I’m going to do now.”

Former West Ham striker Tony Cottee admits the club face a summer of big decisions, with the futures of captain Declan Rice and manager David Moyes up in the air.

The pair may have guided the Hammers to their first trophy for 43 years with Wednesday night’s Europa Conference League final victory, but Rice has been heavily linked with a move away while Moyes, who has faced criticism for his style of football, could be a contender for the vacant Celtic job.

“It’s a big summer for the club. I think everyone will have to take a deep breath and we have to see what happens,” Cottee told talkSPORT.

“I want Declan to stay and I think every single supporter wants him to stay but he will be sought after, he can go to any club in the world.

“The club will have to make a decision. Give him whatever he wants, a six, seven-year contract. He is up there with Bobby Moore and Billy Bonds as the only player to lift a trophy.”

Cottee said the person he was most pleased for in Prague was Moyes because of the scrutiny he has had.

“He’s come in for a bit of stick from fans for his style of football,” he added.

“Of course we want to play good football but do you want to play good football and lose 4-3 or do you want to win?

“He’s earned the right to make the decision himself. Celtic will come calling I’m sure. He’s a great manager.”

David Moyes handed his Europa Conference League winners’ medal to his father after ending West Ham’s 43-year wait for a trophy.

Jarrod Bowen’s dramatic last-minute goal sank Fiorentina 2-1 as the Hammers secured a first piece of silverware since 1980’s FA Cup, and a first European trophy since 1965, on a historic and emotional night in Prague.

Moyes’ dad, 87-year-old David Snr, has been on every step of West Ham’s European tour and joined his son on the pitch after the final whistle.

“He was the first one, I thought I should get it round his neck,” said the jubilant West Ham boss. “He’s watched a lot over the years and I hope he enjoyed it.”

West Ham led through a Said Benrahma penalty on the hour but were immediately pegged back by Giacomo Bonaventura’s strike.

But when Bowen chased Lucas Paqueta’s ball over the top, Moyes almost found himself going full Jose Mourinho.

“The moment he went through I was edging down the touchline,” he added. “If it was going to be anyone, I thought ‘this is the moment’.

“But I couldn’t do a full Mourinho knee slide as the grass was a bit dry and I’d have ended up on my belly.”

Moyes has written his name in West Ham folklore, joining Ron Greenwood and John Lyall as trophy-winning Hammers managers.

A place in next season’s Europa League means the club has qualified for Europe three campaigns in a row, for the first time.

“I actually think the last two years have been an incredible journey,” he said.

“It’s an incredible achievement to do so well in Europe, you look at some of the very good teams who find it a struggle. It’s great credit, we’ve turned a disappointing season into a super season.”

Bowen has come a long way from beginning his career at non-league Hereford, and he is planning to party.

“I’m so buzzing, all of us are just going to go mad I think,” he said. “You have to celebrate.

“When the final whistle went I just thought ‘this party is going to be crazy’.

“I’m just a little boy from Leominster who never thought I’d be talking like this. My family are crying and it just shows me how far I’ve come.”

It was a memorable way to sign off for Declan Rice, destined to leave this summer but with the legacy of becoming only the third captain, along with Bobby Moore and Billy Bonds, to lift silverware in the club’s 128-year history.

The England midfielder has a year left on his contract, and West Ham hold the option of another, but Arsenal are poised to firm up their interest in the coming days.

The only downside to West Ham’s big night was an object thrown from their end which left Cristiano Biraghi with a nasty cut on the back of his head, forcing referee Carlos Del Cerro Grande to briefly halt play while a message over the PA system implored the fans to stop throwing missiles.

The club “unreservedly condemned” the incident while a UEFA inquest will follow with charges likely.

It was a double cup disappointment for Fiorentina, who were only narrowly beaten 2-1 by Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia last month.

“We lost two finals playing really well, and it’s a shame,” said coach Vincenzo Italiano. “Tonight, I honestly didn’t imagine it could finish like this.”

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