By Anthony Onifade

26th May, 2023 | 2:35pm

West Ham United must use Declan Rice bargaining chip to sign Folarin Balogun amid £26m transfer news

West Ham United are heavily interested in signing Arsenal forward Folarin Balogun this summer and may be tempted to use the Gunners’ interest in Declan Rice as a bargaining tool.

The Hale-End academy product has enjoyed a sensational breakout campaign, bursting onto the European scene with 20 goals, becoming the first American to register that figure in a top-five league.

The newly-declared USMNT international is attracting a whole host of interest from several of Europe’s elite clubs with 2022 Serie A champions AC Milan linked with a €30m (£26m) move.

It’s been reported that the hot property striker is unwilling to return to the Emirates Stadium due to a potential lack of game-time and West Ham United are now keen on taking advantage, according to Get Football News Italy (24 May).

“Football journalist Steve Kay has exclusively revealed to the Get Italian Football News team that the Hammers are heavily interested in the Gunner’s promising number-nine as it seems that Italian striker Gianluca Scamacca is tipped for an exit following his unsuccessful first-year stint since joining from Sassuolo last summer,” they wrote.

With Arsenal already reportedly placing a £69m bid for Rice, it remains to be seen if they use the young striker in negotiations to get a deal over the line.

Subscribe to Football Insider TV now

However, given the potential and current ability Balogun possesses coupled with the need for West Ham United to acquire attacking targets due to the potential departures of Michail Antonio and Gianluca Scamacca, the Hammers will be silly not to pursue such a deal.

Should the Gunners be unwilling to match their £100-plus figure for Rice, West Ham United should try and get the best out of any reduced deal by asking for Balogun’s potential availability.

Previously dubbed as “Superb” by his Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, the 21-year-old has indeed been in emphatic form this term, plundering 20 goals and three assists from 36 matches across all competitions.

As per FBref, the 13-cap England U21 international – with seven goals – already ranks among the top 27% of forwards across Europe’s top five leagues for rate of non-penalty goals per 90, also ranking among the top 7% for non-penalty xG and the top 9% for total shots won.

Indeed, Balogun isn’t the finished article as of yet, but West Ham United already possess one of those in Danny Ings. Why not acquire a target with huge potential and ceiling to become a future world star? Balogun is in that bracket and ilk of striker, also possessing the capabilities and talents to become a household name in the English top flight.

Yes, West Ham United are resigned to losing Rice this summer, which will hurt plenty of the Hammers faithful but that sadness and disappointment would be quickly quelled by securing the services of one of Europe’s hottest striking properties right now.

Balogun is an absolute no-brainer bargaining chip.