Former West Ham goalkeeper Jimmy Walker has urged the club to do all they can to keep hold of Declan Rice this summer.
The 20-year-old had a fantastic campaign last term, cementing himself as a key part of the Hammers squad last term by making 34 Premier League appearances alongside being handed his first three senior England caps.
His performances have attracted reported interest from Manchester United [Independent], but speaking to Love Sport Radio, Walker – who made 13 appearances for West Ham in a five-year spell – said that the club should sell their ambitions to him to persuade him to stay.
“[Rice] has to stay. He’s done unbelievably. What a player and he’s West Ham through and through,” Walker said. “He’s been excellent for fans who can connect with him so well there.
“So it’s great that someone like him playing alongside Mark Noble who has come through the same sort of thing because that can only help him.
“But I think it’s massive for the club at the minute that they keep these players. They have to keep the players and bat the offers off.
“Then on the back of it talk to the players and say: ‘Listen we’re not just keeping you for the sake of it, we want to kick on. We’re going to buy these players that everyone is talking about. We want to be in the market for £50m, £60m+ players in the next couple of years. We want to push for the Champions League spots.'”
Walker is right: this is exactly the kind of attitude West Ham have to take with players such as Rice. The Hammers are at the start of an upward trend, having moved to a new stadium and brought in Manuel Pellegrini, who guided the club to a 10th-placed finish in his first season. Add to that the installation of a proper sporting director in Mario Husillos, and you get a club which are really looking forward. The final piece in the jigsaw is the players, and Rice – being only 20 and a promising England international – is the one player who will be key to West Ham going back to where they were under David Moyes, hosting protests during matches that made for ugly scenes. Those days seem a long way away now, but they have certainly not faded from memory. As Walker says, West Ham can go far now that the proper foundations have been laid, and Rice will be key to them progressing again next season.