THERE is nothing more exciting for a football fan in the summer than a big-money signing.
Then, almost without exception, there is nothing more maddening than watching a player recruited for a vast transfer fee either frustrate or flop at their new club.
GettyRice has joined Arsenal in a record-breaking £105m transfer[/caption]
ReutersThe midfielder is the most expensive English player in the Premier League[/caption]
Declan Rice will become the most expensive English player in the Premier League after the completion of his £105million switch from West Ham to Arsenal – and the 17th to move to a Premier League club for £70m or more.
And those signings have rarely hit the ground running.
The previous 16 to make such major moves are Enzo Fernandez, Jack Grealish, Romelu Lukaku (twice), Paul Pogba, Mykhailo Mudryk, Antony, Darwin Nunez, Harry Maguire, , Jadon Sancho, Nicolas Pepe, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Fofana, Kai Havertz and Casemiro.
Rice, however, feels different. Here is a 24-year-old, approaching the peak of his powers, with more than 200 Premier League appearances to his name, with the ability and personality that makes him look like a sure-fire success.
It is difficult to imagine Rice feeling overawed by his new surroundings at the Emirates as he prepares to make his Champions League debut at a club which is returning to European football’s top table after a five-year absence.
Rice has just lifted a European trophy as West Ham captain – a feat Arsenal haven’t achieved in almost 30 years.
GettyMan City’s £100m man Grealish thrived at the Etihad last season but wasn’t an immediate hit[/caption]
GettyVan Dijk has been one of Liverpool’s star players since he joined in 2017[/caption]
He has also been outstanding for England at a World Cup and a European .
And for Arsenal, Rice is clearly an upgrade on Granit Xhaka, who has left for Bayer Leverkusen after a lengthy stint with the Gunners.
This is not to suggest that Rice is necessarily going to prove the difference between last season’s runners-up finish and title glory for Arsenalterm.
Many believe that last campaign, when so many other major clubs were struggling or in transition, represented Mikel Arteta’s best ever chance to lead Arsenal to – especially as they topped the table for the vast majority of the season.
But Rice’s signing, along with those of Havertz and Jurrien Timber, represent a serious show of ambition from the Gunners, a determination to prove that last season’s title tilt was not a flash in the pan.
Many of those other expensive Premier League recruits have struggled in new surroundings – especially those moving from abroad – and others could not handle the weight of their price tags.
Neither is likely to apply to Rice.
PAPogba joined Man Utd for £89m in 2016, but left as a free agent last summer[/caption]
It is likely that Rice will wear the armband for both his new club and his country before long, although the issue of captaincy in football is usually over-rated.
Rice has a natural authority and he is unlikely to shrink at Arsenal, especially in such a young dressing-room.
You will struggle to find any Hammers fan who seriously begrudges Rice his move – especially after that Europa Conference League Final send-off against Fiorentina in Prague last month.
Rice has been honest enough to admit his Champions League ambitions, without ever kicking up a stink about wanting away, publicly or privately – and the Hammers, in turn, were realistic in accepting his departure, while still garnering a huge fee.
During his last couple of seasons at West Ham, Rice – who originally emerged as a centre-half – developed into a box-to-box midfielder, a role he says he relishes more than the more disciplined anchorman duties he carries out for England.
Arteta encourages a fluid style, so Rice is likely to have a decent amount of licence to roam.
While England boss Gareth Southgate will never openly express opinions in his players’ club futures, he will be pleased that Rice has joined Arsenal and Bellingham has arrived at Real Madrid, as well as Mason Mount heading for a career re-fresh at Manchester United and James Maddison switching to Spurs.
A year out from a European Championships which England have a genuine chance of winning, four of Southgate’s midfielders have made positive moves this.
Nothing is guaranteed, especially when it comes to Premier League players with vast price tags.
But little seems more certain than Rice tearing it up for Arsenal from the word go.
GettyArsenal confirmed the signing of Jurrien Timber on Friday[/caption]