Declan Rice became Britain’s most expensive player on Saturday as Arsenal signed the England midfielder from West Ham for a reported £105 million pounds ($137.5 million).

Rice’s blockbuster move surpassed the previous record £100 million fee paid by Manchester City for Jack Grealish in 2021 as Arsenal continue their spending spree in a bid to challenge for the Premier League title next season.

The 24-year-old said in a letter to West Ham supporters that his desire to play at the “very highest level” lay behind his decision to join Arsenal.

Rice’s switch to the Emirates Stadium on a long-term contract comes just months after he lifted West Ham’s first major trophy since 1980 in the Europa Conference League final against Fiorentina.

Having moved across London, Rice will now be competing for the Champions League rather than Europe’s third-tier trophy.

“In football, amazing opportunities arise. Big clubs, like Arsenal, have come for me and it’s really hard to turn down,” Rice told Arsenal’s website.

“You only ever get one career and I really believe in what Mikel (Arteta) is building here and the squad he’s building. I’m really looking forward to the future with Arsenal.”

Fuelled by their agonising failure to hold off champions Manchester City in the Premier League title race last term, Arsenal have already spent around £200 million since the end of last season in a bid to improve on their second-place finish.

Arsenal haven’t won the title since Arsene Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ in 2004, but they made huge strides under Arteta last season.

They led the Premier League table for much of the season before collapsing in the final weeks to allow City to knock them out of first place.

Rice is confident the future is bright for a young Arsenal team featuring emerging stars like Bukayo Saka, William Saliba and Gabriel Martinelli.

– ‘Really hungry’ –
“With Mikel and how he works, the squad, how young everyone is, the energy around the club and also the challenge of getting Arsenal back to where they belong, that means a lot to me,” Rice said.

“I know the fans really want that. For me as a player, I’ve come here really hungry to have more success and to spend my best years at this great club.

“I know he (Arteta) is going to get the best out of me. I know I’ve got more levels to go up in my game and I feel like he’s the manager to take me to those next levels. I am really excited to be working with him.”

Jude Bellingham’s transfer from Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid could eventually beat Rice’s record, depending on add-on clauses in the deal that may take it to £115 million.

But for now, Rice has a gigantic fee to justify after he joined Germany forward Kai Havertz and Netherlands defender Jurrien Timber as the new recruits in Mikel Arteta’s squad.

With Swiss international Granit Xhaka having left to join Bayer Leverkusen, Rice’s arrival will bolster Areta’s midfield options.

“We’re really happy that Declan is joining us. He is a player with tremendous ability, who has been performing at a high level in the Premier League and for England for a number of seasons now,” Arteta said.

“Declan is bringing undoubted quality to the club and he is an exceptional talent who has the potential to be very successful here.

“The responsibility and role he has taken on has been very impressive and we are really excited that he is joining us.”

AFP

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