Can Moyes' magic do the trick?

So how do we stop Declan Rice leaving West Ham United?

I ask this because the goalpost have been moved, the player is not the player he was last summer and there looks as if there is a chink of light in what we all thought was an inevitable parting.

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These past few weeks, six wins in seven games, we surely realise we are witnessing something special. This is not the usual West Ham. We are seeing a side, a team, a squad, evolving into the club we have dreamed of.

And at its heart we are seeing a young player evolve, blossom in David Moyes’ words, into a very special footballer.

This is not the emerging Declan Rice of last season or the Rice we saw in that straight-jacket England role. The doubts about his value and general quality were a constant debate.

But now, wow. In little more than three months, Rice has changed, and changed dramatically. Not just an emerging holding midfielder, he’s now one of the best players in the country, probably Europe , in the expansive midfield role that has driven West Ham into the top four of the Premier League and unbeaten at the top of Europa League group H.

But we all know Rice needs Champions League football to reach the stage he craves. And can Moyes provide that for the 22 year-old? I suppose if anyone can, Moyes can.

He is one of a rare breed of managers who have broken into the cartel of the super rich clubs. But can he do it again and give Rice the incentive to stay. It has to be fourth at least, and Moyes achieved that with Everton back in 2004/05.

It’s worth looking at that season to see how he did it, with a club lacking finances and a team of reliable journeymen.

Last season West Ham finished sixth with 65 points, just two short of Chelsea in fourth. Moyes got Everton into fourth spot with 61 points. Tim Cahill was top scorer with 12, and Moyes sold Wayne Rooney for £30m that summer.

They started off with a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal, but from then until December when they beat Liverpool at Goodison Park, the only teams to beat them were Spurs and Chelsea.

They relentlessly beat teams at their own level and in the April, they beat Manchester United at Goodison. And despite losing six of their last ten, they pipped Liverpool by three points, the Anfield club a little distracted by their run to the Champions League final in Istanbul.

Everton’s team included Alan Stubbs, David Weir, Carsley, Tommy Gravesen, Tony Hibbert, Nigel Martyn and Marcus Bent. Good players, but it was the sum total, a collective of players who believed and worked for their manager.

Frankly, I do not see that squad is any better than the one Moyes has assembled at West Ham. What we are seeing is our manager re-enacting that Everton side in a similar style, this band of brothers we can all associate with.

Looking at the current Premier League, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City are a class apart. We are fourth and any team in the top ten could get that final Champions League spot, it is arguably the most open top half in years.

Moyes knows it can be done and looking at Rice now and the rest of our squad, the players believe too.

It does, though, revolve around the vastly improve Rice. The comparisons are coming thick and fast with Billy Bonds, with Trevor Brooking. He overpowered Spurs on Sunday, he destroyed Everton a week earlier. Seeing is believing, we have a potential England captain and world superstar on our hands.

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Moyes can see what we see. And with one clipped remark after victory over Spurs, Moyes carefully put Rice out of reach of all but half a dozen clubs in the Premier League and Europe.

Moyes does not do one-liners, or sound bites. But when he wants something out there, he’ll do it. He’s no fool. Eight weeks before the next transfer window, he will know all about the rustling of cheque books, and the potential distractions confronting his young captain.

Moyes spelt it out. “There was a bargain to be got with Declan at £100m. That bargain has gone. So there you have it.” And any fee now will not be a £10m upgrade, more a £50m increase.”

The only clubs who could remotely afford that are Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Paris St Germain and Real Madrid. Barcelona have left the theatre, a bit like Elvis. With their reputation in tatters.

And don’t even start with Newcastle. Still no manager, an infrastructure in tatters we hear, some doubts about where the money is coming from and a relegation fight in full swing.

Why on earth would Rice want to go there? Unless it’s the money - and he knows he can get what he wants if he actually wants to leave to get it, without throwing himself into the Geordie circus.

Now I would be amazed it Moyes and Rice haven’t had a sensible talk about the future. Why on earth not? Moyes will have said, "give me a chance to give you the platform you want". Rice, who very clearly is loving this season at West Ham, is in no rush.

And in the midst of this wonderful spell at West Ham, there have been a couple of suggestions that a new contract could still be on offer. He has a current deal until 2024, and would certainly want a release clause.

So back the original question; what would it take to keep him at Stratford? A fourth-place finish in the Premier League would be the bottom line, surely. And that is where we are after stuffing Spurs in their cup final.

I mean, sending your stiffs into a European tie, a bridge too far from them in Arnhem (sorry, I couldn’t resist it). It seems, though, that keeping your first eleven back in London for the derby game at the London Stadium, was a bridge too far for them too.

They had a lot more possession but did little with it. Skills, technique, but brittle minds. West Ham had desire, character, resolve, organisation, resilience and guts.

There’s a lot more to West Ham than that, they are not just tough to break down. The talents of Zouma, Fornals, Rice, Antonio, Creswell, Ogbonna - I could go on - are more than just hard work.

Jonathan Liew in the Guardian got it about right. His report said: “Something special is at West Ham, a sense of progress and ascendancy.”

The last word from Moyes: ”If you look at where these boys were a few years ago, they have all blossomed. They are feeling important, they are thinking they can make a difference.”

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