SOCCER - A.Klagenfurt vs Southampton, test match KLAGENFURT,AUSTRIA,18.JUL.22 - SOCCER - ADMIRAL Bundesliga, Premier League, SK Austria Klagenfurt vs FC Southampton, test match. Image shows a ball. PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxAUTxSUIxSWE GEPAxpictures/xFlorianxMori

While no Hammers fan will want to consider the prospect of losing Declan Rice (especially to an EPL rival like Chelsea or Manchester United), it’s becoming increasingly likely that the 23-year-old will leave before his contract expires in 2024.

Although West Ham have the option to extend the deal by a further 12 months, Rice turned down an improved, eight-year deal worth a staggering £83 million in the summer and no further talks have been planned for now.

Because of this, West Ham remain in the market for a potential replacement, having been previously linked with Amadou Onana (who’s now at Everton). But who else could replace Rice if he does leave the Hammers?

Is Jerdy Schouten the Answer?

According to recent reports, West Ham are exploring the possibility of signing Bologna midfielder Jerdy Schouten as a direct replacement for Rice in midfield.

The 25-year-old midfielder has made 70 appearances for the Serie A side since his debut in 2019, while his consistent form and growing maturity have also seen him earn his first Dutch cap this spring.

Like Rice, the Dutch player (who came through the ranks at ADO Den Haag before joining Bologna from Excelsior) will see his contract end in 2024.

However, his side may be encouraged to sell in the summer rather than see the player run down his contract and leave for free the following year, with a fee of around £30 million or less potentially enough to complete a deal.

Are Any Other Players Being Considered?

An even cheaper and less tried-and-tested option exists in the form of Empoli’s fellow Serie A midfielder Kristjan Asllani.

Technically gifted and hard-working, this 20-year-old star is also being tracked by Leicester City, who are facing their own midfield challenges with Youri Tielemans approaching the end of his own contract too.

Regardless, Asllani has been making significant waves with unfancied Empoli of late, while the unproven nature of the player would see him made available for as little as £10 million.

Like wagering your hard-earned cash as, this would represent something of a gamble, but one that would enable the Hammers to buy Rice’s replacement now and get him acclimatised to the EPL and East London ahead of the England midfielder’s eventual departure.

The Last Word

Ultimately, Rice continues to court the attention of leading EPL clubs like Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City, while his projected fee of £150 million makes him the Hammers’ most valuable asset.

From a business perspective, it’s important to protect this and prevent Rice from leaving on a free in the future, and his refusal to meaningfully extend his current deal may force West Ham’s hand in the near or medium-term.

This would be a devastating blow for both the club and its fans, so West Ham will need to at least prepare for the worst and ensure they replace Rice with a quality and suitable alternative.