Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka has now revealed the key role he played in convincing Declan Rice to sign for the Gunners in a club-record transfer from West Ham United.
The Emirates Stadium natives broke the bank to make Rice an Arsenal player this July with a £105m swoop. Boss Mikel Arteta paid West Ham a club-record £100m upfront, eclipsing the fee the Gunners paid for Nicolas Pepe in 2019. He left London Stadium as the Irons’ captain.
Rice had played 245 times across all competitions in claret-and-blue through his six years as a first-team player. Slaven Bilic handed the midfielder his Hammers debut in May 2017 at 18 years and four months. Rice’s final West Ham act was lifting the Europa Conference League.
Saka and Rice have been England teammates since November 2020
What the former Chelsea youth gem offered West Ham further convinced Gareth Southgate to hand Rice his England debut in March 2019. He pulled the anchor away from the Republic of Ireland after three senior caps. Rice has since played in 43 matches with the Three Lions.
Southgate further unleashed Saka 21 times through Rice’s 43 caps for England before Arteta united the pair at Arsenal. They first featured together in a UEFA Nations League fixture with Belgium in November 2020. Rice and Saka are yet to combine for a single goal with England.
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Saka found Rice at the ideal time to combine for their first goal as Arsenal beat Manchester United last Sunday, though. The winger picked out the midfielder at the back of the six-yard box with his 96th-minute corner at Emirates Stadium before Rice fired home to make it 2-1.
Rice had scored 15 goals and assisted 13 through his 245 appearances for West Ham before signing for Arsenal. He now has one goal in five Gunners outings after opening his account in Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Red Devils. Arteta has started Rice in all five of Arsenal’s matches.
Saka reveals the key role he played in Arsenal’s club-record transfer
Now, they will link up once more after making Southgate’s England squad for fixtures against Ukraine and Scotland. And Saka has used the September break to explain the role he played in convincing Rice to leave West Ham and sign for Arsenal in a club-record transfer this July.
“Obviously, he’d ask a few questions and I’d answer them,” Saka told talkSPORT. “But, yeah, I’d just try to give him the reassurance that he’d be coming to the right club and that the future is exciting for us.
“If he joined us, he’d make us better and that yeah, we can definitely achieve things.”
Arsenal finished last term as the runners-up to Manchester City for the Premier League title. The Gunners have not won a top-flight trophy since their 2003/04 Invincibles season. They are also now back in the Champions League for the first time since the 2016/17 campaign.