By Anthony Onifade

25th May, 2023 | 7:40pm

Perfect Declan Rice replacement on cards for West Ham United in Romeo Lavia as transfer news emerges

West Ham United may already have a perfect Declan Rice replacement lined up as the Hammers keep tabs on Southampton wonderkid Romeo Lavia.

Club captain Rice looks set to call time on his seven-year West Ham first-team career this summer in search of Champions League football and Arsenal have already been earmarked as the favourites to sign him.

Bayern Munich, Manchester United, City, Liverpool and Chelsea have all emerged as strong potential suitors for England international this summer, and are believed to be holding out for an Enzo Fernandez-style fee at £100m-plus for his services [Daily Mail, 11 May].

It has already been reported by Sky Germany [24 May: 16:14pm] that Arsenal have submitted an €80million (£69m) to West Ham United which should be rejected out of hand by the Hammers.

They also reveal that talks have already taken place between the player’s advisers and Bayern Munich.

“According to Sky information, the English national player was discussed internally in detail, and there was already an exchange between FC Bayern and Rice’s advisors.

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“The problem: West Ham United is flirting with a very high transfer fee, Arsenal have already made an offer of around 80 million euros – too much for Munich. Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC are also interested in Rice”, Sky Germany reveals.

There’s a strong reason the Irons are holding out for a very high transfer fee, not only because of the huge ceiling Rice holds within the European game and his amazing potential to become one of the best of his position.

But, from a West Ham United standpoint, the club are seeking to undergo their very own huge summer rebuild in which much of the Rice money will be spent on.

Rice’s departure will leave a gaping hole in the Hammers midfield which means the Irons should already be scouting long-term replacements to come in and immediately take his place but also possess the potential and qualities to become a future world-beater like his predecessor.

And according to ExWHUemployee, the East Londoners already have their eye on one perfect candidate in Southampton’s midfield gem Lavia.

The 19-year-old has been a shining light on the South Coast emerging as one of the Premier League’s most exciting midfield properties ever since his move from Manchester City last summer.

90min has previously reported on 18 April that the Saints are prepared to sell the Belgium international and want a fee in excess of the £40million buy-back clause that becomes active for Manchester City in 2024.

And given Lavia’s age, profile and significant potential, £40m for a future world-class asset seems a huge bargain.

“It is understood that both James Ward-Prowse and Romeo Lavia of now-relegated Southampton are on the club’s radar, with West Ham likely to be strengthening in midfield especially if Declan Rice leaves the club,” Ex revealed.

With Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City all interested in Lavia’s services this summer, it is pretty easy to see why he is so highly coveted right now. Should West Ham United emerge on the table to sign him, Lavia may be swayed by the incentive of starting more games at the London Stadium than he would if he joined one of the top-flight’s elite clubs.

In his first season in the Premier League, the 19-year-old excelled exceptionally, averaging 1.1 interceptions and 2.0 tackles per game, winning 57% of his ground duels and 56% of his total duels which is incredible for a teenage midfield player [SofaScore]

However, Lavia has also proven a unique commodity in possession of the ball and progressing through slick passing and dribbles, successfully completing 90% of his passes and also completing 70% of his dribbles showcasing his wonderful technical qualities and skills on the ball – something the Hammers will crucially miss once Rice departs this summer.

With the potentially departing Tomas Soucek and Flynn Downes as the club’s only other midfield alternatives right now, investment is desperately needed in the middle of the park.

And the Hammers can do no wrong in chasing arguably the Premier League’s most flawless young midfield talent around.