Declan Rice putting pressure of price tag behind him to pursue biggest prizes

Declan Rice went to the World Cup surrounded by England team-mates who had won the biggest prizes in the game – now he is a £105million player who insists he is not fazed by the price tag having lifted European silverware and instantly taken to Champions League football.

The 24-year-old admitted a year ago in Qatar that he wanted to play at the highest level and left West Ham in the summer after captaining them to Europa Conference League glory.

Rice moved across London to Arsenal, joining the Gunners for a club-record fee and has hit the ground running with a run of fine performances for Mikel Arteta’s side.

Declan Rice captained West Ham to the Europa Conference League title last season
Declan Rice captained West Ham to the Europa Conference League title last season (Joe Giddens/PA)

While previous big-money signings have seemingly been weighed down by hefty price tags, Rice has flourished in spite of it.

“When the transfer was going through I was very nervous because of the price tag,” he said.

“It’s natural to think about that. You’re a human being bought for £105m, it doesn’t feel very normal. But that was because of what I’d done at West Ham, what they valued me at.

“When I signed for Arsenal, I just thought I just need to be Declan Rice, be myself, don’t be any different, everything will go smoothly.

“The first three weeks of pre-season were really tough in terms of the change. When you’re at a new job you start to feel really settled after a few weeks.

“That really feels the case now. In terms of the price tag, I don’t really think about it, I just play the games and try to play as well as possible.

“Honestly, I just try to play my football. I don’t let it affect me in any way, shape or form. I just go to training, try to train as well as possible.”

Rice’s England colleague Jack Grealish admitted he found talk of his £100m move to Manchester City “annoying” and that more was expected of him as a result of the big fee.

Rice admits he understands if Jack Grealish (left) struggled with his big price tag
Rice admits he understands if Jack Grealish, left, struggled with his hefty price tag (Martin Rickett/PA)

“It’s £100m, it’s a lot of money, I could understand the pressure that comes with it,” added Rice.

“Not only the pressure you put on yourself but there’s an expectation of being bought for that much money we need to see performances straight away.

“I want to repay the club back straight away, they have invested a lot of money in me, I need to prove why I can go there and change things.

“I can see why Jack struggled maybe at the start – mentally. He was a £100m footballer but as he wasn’t playing as much, it was probably as bit different for him. Now he’s flying and it’s the same for me.”

Rice insists he always had faith in his ability to step up to the highest level and he has shone particularly brightly on Arsenal’s Champions League nights so far.

“I won the trophy at West Ham, which was another level. It was incredible for me and the club. Now I’ve been playing on Champions League nights and been playing relatively well, but it’s something I always believed I could do,” he said.

“It was just waiting for my chance and my opportunity. Every game that’s coming now, I’m just trying to take it step by step and perform on the biggest stage.

“Speaking honestly, I feel I was playing as well at West Ham in my last season. Even though we didn’t have the best season as a team, I feel like I kicked on again. You never want to stay stale as a footballer.

“You’re always looking to improve, always looking to get better. I still feel there’s so many more levels I can get to. It’s just about being eager to learn, practising on the training pitch, and always listening as well.”

Rice has also called on England to end an unbeaten 2023 with a “bang” by winning their final Euro 2024 qualifier away to North Macedonia on Monday.

England have not suffered defeat since their World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of France last December and sealed their spot at next summer’s finals with two games to spare.

After a drab 2-0 win over Malta on Friday, Rice is keen for England to put in a better showing to bring the curtain down on a strong calendar year.

“I think especially the other night after Malta there is just a bit of pride in ourselves that we need to raise our level,” the Arsenal midfielder said.

“We need to put out a statement and it would be a good way to end the year. We are currently unbeaten since the World Cup so it is down to us to go out tomorrow night, put on a performance.”