Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra agree on Declan Rice verdict amid Arsenal transfer decision

Arsenal have made signing Declan Rice from West Ham this summer their number one priority as Mikel Arteta looks to add reinforcements into his squad ahead of next season.

Former Manchester United stars Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand have agreed in their verdict of Declan Rice. Arsenal are set to prioritise a move for the West Ham captain in the summer transfer window.

For a long time it seemed inevitable that Rice’s next club would be Chelsea, where he spent his formative years before being released aged just 14, but there have been some indications recently that it is in fact Arsenal who are now the favourites to land his signature. The 24-year-old will have just 12 months left on his current deal with West Ham at the end of the season and has so far refused every approach over signing a renewal.

Rice is said to favour a move that would see him stay in London, but United are hoping to offer him a huge financial package and outbid their rivals in an effort to see him partner up alongside Casemiro in Erik ten Hag’s midfield. The England international has expressed a desire to play for a club that competes for trophies and features in the Champions League regularly, putting Arsenal and United in pole position to secure his signature this summer.

Speaking after United’s FA Cup win against the Hammers, Keane told ITV: “He [Rice] has first got to focus on West Ham and doing well for the rest of the season, but I don’t think he has been great this season. I don’t think he has kicked on for all the talk there has been about him – he needs to do a lot more.”

Ferdinand has now responded to Roy Keane’s criticism of Rice last week. Speaking during the FIVE podcast on YouTube, the ex-United defender said: “That’s not his job [to score goals and provide assists].

“He’s not a goalscoring midfielder. I think Declan Rice goes to a bigger club than West Ham and becomes an even better player.”

Evra agreed with Ferdinand, adding: “I played with Declan during my time at West Ham, what I love about this kid is that he is really humble. He wants to learn and I see the progress he’s made.

“Before he would want to carry the ball too much, but now he is able to make the right decisions. Like Rio says, just because he had a bad game [vs Brighton] doesn’t mean you should kill him right away.

“One of the problems with the massive price tags is that after your move, people judge you. If we [United] bought Harry Maguire for £20million, people would not be on his case.

“The problem for Declan Rice is, people will say right now he is the future. As soon as someone pays £100million for him, people will kill [criticise] him.”

When asked whether Rice has the ability to play for a top team in the Premier League and in the Champions League, Evra replied: “Yeah. He can if he has the right manager and the right players around him.

“He’s not a leader right now, he is not ready, but he is going in the right direction. If you go to a big club you’re going to have a better manager, better quality players surrounding you and you will get better.”

Mikel Arteta has shown he has the ability to improve players, highlighted by Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey’s improvement in performance this season. Rice will have plenty of suitors this summer but Arsenal are hoping to add him to their squad and continue to improve as a team.

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