Arsenal signs Declan Rice from West Ham for a deal worth a reported $138 million

England’s Declan Rice during a training session at the Trafford Training Centre, Manchester, Britain, Sunday June 18, 2023. England will play North Macedonia in a group C Euro qualifier. (Martin Rickett/PA via AP)

England midfielder Declan Rice joined Arsenal for a deal worth a reported 105 million pounds ($138 million) on Saturday, ending his nine-year association with West Ham.

The fee wasn’t officially announced by either club, but West Ham said the 24-year-old Rice was moving for a British-record transfer fee.

Arsenal is reportedly paying an initial fee of 100 million pounds, plus add-ons. That initial fee is the same as the British-record sum that Manchester City paid Aston Villa for Jack Grealish in 2021.

Another England midfielder, Jude Bellingham, joined Real Madrid from Borussia Dortmund this offseason in a deal that could reach more than $139 million.

It is a statement signing by Arsenal after a season which saw the club narrowly miss out on the Premier League title but re-establish itself as a force in England under Mikel Arteta.

In a message from Rice to West Ham fans, he said it was a “tough” decision driven by his “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,” Rice said. “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.”

Rice will effectively replace Granit Xhaka in Arsenal’s midfield options, with the Switzerland international having joined Bayer Leverkusen last week.

Rice can play as a midfield anchorman or as a box-to-box player, giving Arteta some versatility as Arsenal looks to build on its second-place finish in the league last season. Only a late-season collapse prevented Arsenal winning its first league title since 2004.

Arsenal will also be playing in the Champions League in the coming season for the first time since 2017.

It is a sign of the progress made by Arsenal under Arteta that the club can attract a sought-after player like Rice, and for such a big fee.

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

The London club has also signed Germany forward Kai Havertz from Chelsea in a deal worth a reported 65 million pounds, while Netherlands defender Jurrien Timber joined from Ajax on Friday for an initial fee of 40 million euros.

Rice’s last game for West Ham was its win over Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final in June, after which it became clear the defensive midfielder would be leaving the team whose academy he joined in 2014 from Chelsea.

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