Paul Merson thinks a Declan Rice deal is being sorted behind the scenes and West Ham will sell to one of two clubs.
The wider football media seems to finally be waking up to the reality of the Rice situation over the last couple of weeks.
After months of lazy tabloid speculation, the message is finally getting through that West Ham simply will not be selling their talisman anytime soon – and certainly not for anything less than his £150m valuation.
Except someone seems to have forgotten to tell Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson.
As reported by Hammers News, an emotional comment from Rice during an interview at West Ham’s awards night proves he is staying next season.
The likes of Sky Sports reported last night that West Ham will not hold further talks with Rice over a new contract until the summer transfer window has closed after the midfielder turned down an eight-year deal worth £83m.
Paul Merson thinks Declan Rice deal is being sorted behind the scenes and West Ham will sell to one of two clubs
It is West Ham’s way of effectively saying ‘Rice stays’ – for one more year at least.
But Merson, speaking in his latest column on Sky Sports, believes otherwise.
In fact Merson thinks a Rice deal is being sorted behind the scenes and West Ham will sell to one of two clubs – Chelsea or Manchester United.
“He’s going to Chelsea or Manchester United in my opinion. United need that kind of player – but he can’t force a move,” Merson said on Sky Sports.
“If you force a move – or the agent forces the move – you’re the one who has to go back and play if it doesn’t work out. He has to be careful as he’s a West Ham legend. And he will leave as one if he does it the right way.
“If it starts getting messy on the way to him leaving then everything he has done for the club will go up the wall. I don’t think he’s someone who will want that to happen.
“There is a lot of patience to be had there and he’ll have to hope everyone else sorts it out and he won’t get involved. If it comes to a push and you start saying that you want to leave, you don’t want to be doing that as a West Ham legend. You don’t want to start getting booed as a West Ham legend. I think that will be sorted out behind the scenes.”
This is a terrible take from Merson given the fact Rice has made it clear he will be at West Ham next year.
The Hammers are in a strong position.
One thing Merson is correct to point out is that Rice is not the type of character to down tools or throw his toys of his pram to force a move.
The 23-year-old’s contract has two years to run with West Ham holding the option to extend it by a further 12 months until 2025.
But this is further evidence – if it were needed – that there is a concerted media effort to get Rice out of West Ham.
And it comes just days after Gary Neville’s dismissive and arrogant comments regarding West Ham and Rice’s future.