West Ham

West Ham: Irons wanted £5m star who then became worth £80m & better than Rice

The (second) appointment of David Moyes as manager of West Ham United has proven to be a masterstroke in creating a project of illustrious success, something that was achieved in June with a 2-1 victory over Italian team Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final. West Ham United has enjoyed a stunning rise over the past few years.

The Hammers were in turmoil and in danger of losing their place in the Premier League when the Scottish manager took over in 2019. They were one point above the relegation zone before the turn of the year and it was obvious that the team lacked confidence and direction.

But if the West Ham faithful thought that his industrious managerial approach would stem the flow of malaise then they were very wrong indeed.

West Ham United manager David Moyes before the match

Yes, Moyes painstakingly built a team capable of not only surpassing fan expectations and securing three consecutive European campaigns—the third and current adventure being made possible by that silver-laden victory in the Conference League—but also escaping the threat of the drop zone.

Declan Rice, a homegrown prodigy and all-powerful midfield phenomenon, was at the center of the accomplishments, and it is hardly an accident that his ascent occurs at the same time as the ascent of his previous team.

What was Declan Rice’s contribution to West Ham?

Rice secured a £105 million transfer to divisional rivals Arsenal in July after playing 245 times for West Ham and contributing 15 goals and 13 assists, a record for a British player.

Praised as a “force of nature” by journalist Rob Blanchette, Rice provided the Hammers with the energy, confidence and technical quality to turbo-charge the midfield and serve as the unrelenting engine for all of the exploits under Moyes’ wing.

As per FBref, the £240k-per-week gem also ranks within the top 20% of midfielders across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for pass completion, passes attempted, progressive passes, progressive carries and interceptions per 90 – illustrating the level of ubiquity in his midfield craft.


While the 6-foot midfielder does now earn his wage at the Emirates Stadium with the Gunners, he will always be remembered for his starring role in the most prosperous period of West Ham’s modern history.

It’s hard to imagine, but this world-class midfielder could have seen his impact eclipsed across recent years, with one N’Golo Kante very nearly signing for the club eight year ago.

Did West Ham nearly sign N’Golo Kante?

In 2015, West Ham were rumoured to hold an interest in Ligue 1 side Caens’ dynamic and energetic centre-midfielder Kante, with the Daily Mail reporting that the Frenchman – who had received comparisons to Chelsea legend Claude Makalele – was being considered as an alternative to Alex Song.

A transfer for Song, notably of Arsenal and Barcelona, was reportedly in danger of falling apart after the Cameroonian midfielder spent the 2014/15 campaign on loan at Upton Park, though he would ultimately agree another season-long loan deal but managed just 12 outings in an injury-hit campaign.

Kante was rumored to be on the market for under £5 million, and West Ham must still be kicking themselves now as Leicester City acquired him for a steal of £5.5 million that very summer.

At that time, no one was aware of the name, but they would. Kante, who was hailed as the season’s best acquisition and praised for his “incredible quality” by Arsene Wenger, played a crucial role in the middle of the field as the Foxes somehow won the Premier League.

How good was N’Golo Kante?

After that dream-like maiden year on English shores, Kante would earn a £30m move to Chelsea, where he would ply his trade until the recently-sailed summer, having joined Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad on a free transfer after seven years at Stamford Bridge.

Lauded for his “magic” on the pitch by former Blues midfielder Cesc Fabregas, the 32-year-old World Cup winner has been one of the finest Premier League midfielders of his generation.


Everyone wanted a slice, and while Serie A giants Inter Milan held a vested interest in the star in 2020, Chelsea slapped an £80m price tag on his name to ward off interest in 2020 – which such a fee, though probably warranted, too expensive for the Italian team.

While Rice is still early into his career, on the current evidence Kante is the superior midfielder and it’s really quite something to think that West Ham feasibly could have boasted a machine of a higher calibre than the 24-year-old, who will be held in a coveted light for many, many years in east London.

N’Golo Kante vs Declan Rice
Career statistics Kante (via WhoScored) Rice (via WhoScored)
Pass completion 86% 88%
Shots per game 0.6 0.7
Tackles per game 3 2.2
Interceptions per game 2.2 1.7
Clearances per game 0.9 1.5
Key passes per game 0.9 0.5
Dribbles per game 1.2 0.9
G/A rate per game 12% 11%
Career average rating 7.11 6.97

Given the incredible success the team has had lately, West Ham won’t likely regret Rice’s decision to work for the organization rather than Kante, but the idea of the French midfielder joining the team and securing a starting spot in the midfield is tantalizing, to say the least.


especially in light of the remarkable title victory Leicester achieved with the small machine in the center.

Forging an unbreakable bond with Rice in the middle as the England international graced the senior scene for the first time in the latter stages of the 2016–17 season would have been possible had Kante earned a spot in the center. This would have allowed him to achieve success that would surpass even the heights that Moyes has attained.

That lethal mixture would have been served up by that delectable concoction of early talent and established world-class credentials. It probably would have been enough to serve as the foundation for a drive toward Champions League participation or even a glimpse of the Premier League crown.

Imagine the influence Kante may have had if a chance had been taken on his abilities prior to moving to Leicester. West Ham may be currently enjoying a rich harvest, but just think of the impact he might have had.

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