West Ham United fans have a new hero in Declan Rice but for how long?
Rice turns 20 today but looks like he has been bossing Premier League midfield battles with West Ham for two decades.
The youngster was imperious again and scored his first Premier League goal in the 1-0 win over Arsenal at the weekend.
Rice is so good he has two countries fighting over his international allegiance.
Both England and the Republic of Ireland, for whom Rice has already featured in friendly matches, want to build a team around him.
Unfortunately for West Ham so does Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.
Pep eyeing Rice as Fernandinho successor
That’s according to a host of recent reports which claim Guardiola sees Rice as the perfect long-term replacement for Fernandinho.
It is reported that Guardiola has commissioned a detailed assessment of Rice. The Spaniard wants it to be conducted throughout the remainder of the season.
Rice finally signed a new six-year contract at the London Stadium on Christmas Day.
But in modern day football, particularly when City are involved, all that does is drive up the price.
Could Rice’s major impending decision on his international future force Guardiola to look elsewhere, though?
Rice tipped to choose Ireland
Speculation is that Rice is set to commit to Ireland (The Irish Times).
Multi-national City are in desperate need of homegrown players to meet Premier League rules.
The Homegrown Player Rule was brought in by the Premier League in a bid to force clubs to develop more domestic players.
It forms part of the League’s Elite Player Performance Plan. Currently the Premier League allows a maximum of 17 non-“homegrown” players in each club squad, and the squad size is a maximum of 25.
This means that in a full squad of 25 players, there must be at least eight homegrown players.
The likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City face a juggling act over the issue each summer.
Rice is a home boy regardless but choosing Ireland could help West Ham
Choosing Ireland won’t rule Rice out on that basis. That’s because irrespective of nationality or age he meets the criteria having been registered with a club affiliated to The FA for 36 months before his 21st birthday.
But signing one of England’s brightest prospects to form the future fulcrum of the City side will send a big statement.
It is also important for the club’s identity to keep a core of English players.
West Ham will hope Rice choosing Ireland may just make him less attractive to City.
They are searching for a status signing and England players come with big status.
Fabian Delph, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling are the club’s only English first team players.
So Guardiola would then be relying on promoting other homegrown players to hit the quota.
It promises to be a tense and interesting summer.