By Peter Lynch

24th Mar, 2023 | 7:10pm

West Ham United could survive drop this season, destined for relegation next season if star player Declan Rice leaves

Declan Rice is dominating all the headlines at West Ham, with the club captain constantly being questioned about his future.

That future is seemingly away from East London, with Premier League leaders Arsenal, among other clubs, keen on his signature [Fabrizio Romano].

The Hammers are currently struggling in the relegation zone, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that if they don’t suffer the dreaded feat this season, they will definitely drop down a level next season if they were to lose Rice.

The hugely talented midfielder has garnered huge praise for his displays in claret and blue this season, with the skipper leading by example amid a poor league campaign for the club.

West Ham are struggling in 18th place in the Premier League, just one point ahead of rock-bottom Southampton. They have won just six of their 26 league matches, instead finding success in the Europa Conference League, where they reached the quarter-finals.

Rice has been key to that European journey, with the midfielder also shining for his country, netting in England’s 2-1 Euro 2024 qualifying win over Italy on Thursday (23 March).

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Along with the praise he has received, Rice also has his fair share of critics, most recently drawing criticism from pundit Graeme Souness.

But despite his youth, the Hammers man has brushed off the comments, once again proving just how mature he can be both on and off the field.

There are always a handful of star players who remain in the division when their club drops to the Championship, with Rice set to become one such player this summer if the Hammers do go down.

But even if West Ham manage to avoid the drop, Rice looks certain to move on anyway, and that will more than likely spell disaster for David Moyes’s side, unless manage to find a very talented replacement.

But finding an equally talented player will be near-impossible, a task that will be made even more difficult if the Hammers only very narrowly secure Premier League survival and do not lift the Europa Conference League trophy.

Although expected, Rice’s impending exit will still send shockwaves around the London Stadium, as they have been so used to having their captain lead the way in recent years.

His potential summer exit could be one of many at West Ham, with the future of manager Moyes also uncertain. Rice’s loss would, of course, have a much greater impact than that of his manager.