By Anthony Onifade

17th Sep, 2023 | 7:40am

West Ham United may have already found their next Declan Rice in Arthur Vermeeren as transfer news emerges

West Ham United may have already found their next Declan Rice in Royal Antwerp midfielder Arthur Vermeeren with a January pursuit now reportedly expected.

According to Mundo Deportivo (15 September), the Hammers are in the hunt to sign the Belgian sensation in January but face stiff competition from the likes of Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco.

The Spanish news outlet shared via their website on 15 September that the Hammers had scouts watching Vermeeren during Antwerp’s clash with Gent on 7 January and have been monitoring his progress.

It is reported that Barcelona have been keen on bringing the 18-year-old to the Nou Camp since last season, as he contributed heavily to his club’s league and cup double-winning campaign, but West Ham United could certainly be ready to make an ambitious swoop for the European sensation.

And what a major coup it could well be for the East Londoners if they pull this one of, considering the elite clubs lying in wait to sign the 18-year-old midfielder wonder.

After sanctioning the big-money exit of Rice to Arsenal for all of around £100m, the Hammers will be desperate to find another burgeoning midfield talent lying in wait to become another household name at the London Stadium, either from within the academy or within some of Europe’s top footballing academies.

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Antwerp have certainly unearthed a promising and potentially elite candidate for West Ham to consider and Vermeeren has undergone a steady upward trajectory over the last year or so, featuring in 26 Belgian Pro League games last season and has already started off the 2023/24 campaign in fine fettle.

The 5 foot 9 sensation, like Rice, also ranked highly within his team for his performances last term, posting an average Sofascore rating of 7.05/10 while also ranking highly for interceptions per game (1.3), tackles per game (2.7) and big chances created (three), with these stats fairly similar to that of Rice, albeit at a different level of football.

Football talent scout Jacek Kulig described the teen starlet as “one of the most exciting prospects in Belgium” back in February due to his impressive performances in the Pro League highlighting how highly thought of he is already within the continent.

With an 83% pass success rate last season and averaging 52.2 touches per game in the league, Vermeeren already appears extremely comfortable on the ball while demonstrating his impressive passing ability in Belgium.

So far this campaign, he’s averaged 1.2 key passes per game, averaging 67 touches per game while excelling tremendously in his off-the-ball work, averaging 2.0 tackles, 1.8 interceptions and 8.0 balls recovered already [SofaScore].

This deal would align with a new directive at West Ham to invest in young talent for the future rather than spending heavily on players who will only spend two or three years with the club before they either move on or become less effective and given the burning desire to find a young prospect who could develop like Rice, Vermeeren certainly seems the perfect acquisition.

Tim Steidten was hired as the new technical director over the summer, with his knowledge of European leagues a key reason behind the decision, which means West Ham United already have a key asset who could fend off interest from some of Europe’s elite and secure Vermeeren’s signature.

Just look at how he completed the deal to sign Mohammed Kudus from Ajax. A January deal looks very possible.

In other West Ham news, one Hammers legend tells the club to hand Moyes a new contract amid “uncertainty” around his future.