One more game, one more game Declan Rice

Whatever the song, whatever the pleadings from West Ham fans, Declan Rice will lead out his team in the Europa Conference League final in Prague for the last time.

It would be the perfect end to Rice's West Ham career, if we beat Fiorentina - ok, when we beat them, let's be positive - he will join Bobby Moore and Billy Bonds as the only Hammers captains to hold a major trophy aloft.

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We have been saying goodbye for weeks now. Goodbye to the London Stadium when Rice scored in the win over Leeds, goodbye to the Premier League as a West Ham player in last weekend's pedestrian defeat at Leicester. And it will finally be 'goodbye to him' in the club's third European final.

Only now the very hard of hearing believe he will hang on for 'one more year.' Decisions have been made, gentleman's agreements honoured. And he's done everything to keep his side of the bargain.

He has run himself into the ground to make sure he does not have a relegation on his CV as he departs east London. He has led the side to a European final. And he has been class on and off the field.
Holding midfield, box to box midfield - both in the same game usually - he has given his all, at times covering for the inadequacies around him.

He's posed for all the selfies, signed everything, talked to every kid - remember that lovely moment when he stopped to hug a crying youngster who had waited a very long time to greet him? And his quotes, carefully constructed, have hit all the right notes.

Never a word out of place. He's been our best player by a country mile this season, winning the Hammer of the Year for the third time. He now stands alongside Geoff Hurst, Trevor Brooking, Bobby Moore, Billy Bonds, Julian Dicks, Alvin Martin and Scott Parker as the only players to have win the award three or more times. Rice joins West Ham royalty.

Rice has been beyond reproach as leader and captain, his on-going transfer saga has never effected him on the pitch and his role as club captain.

But when we win the Euro crown, it grates a lot for me and I'm sure many others, that he will not be walking the trophy around the London Stadium with his former colleagues come August.

It grates also, as a fan anyway, that his future and the array of clubs chasing him has dominated the build-up to the final. But then I've been around football for over 65 years so I know the score.

Even more so with the modern game. It is reported that he has met Bayern Munich coach Thomas Tuchel - never denied. That he has also met Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta - never denied.

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Arsenal can't keep their mouths shut about terms being agreed with the player. I wish Rice well as he moves to a higher level, but Arsenal crosses the line. I dislike the tactics and the shithousery that has clouded their season. Rice can do better than that, he will be just a little dead to me if he does join the Gunners.

I have this image in my head of an injured Rice being rolled back onto the pitch by Arteta to have the game stopped - as the Spaniard did in a match to another Arsenal player. That was my red line with Arteta.

But there does not seem to be the auction you can bet David Sullivan wanted. Rice is very unlikely to want to move from London or the Premier League. His former club Chelsea, with a new manager - another one - in Mauricico Pochettino, who might knock them into shape eventually.

Newcastle are interested, but that's 300 miles away from Kingston, his home town. Liverpool have not shown any interest and Manchester City likewise, such is the strength of their midfield with Rodri their holding midfielder and Kevin De Bruyne the best attacking midfielder in the world. I don't think benchwarming is in Rice's vocabulary.

So that leaves Manchester United, where his mate Mason Mount looks to be heading. So unless Real Madrid get involved, or Bayern throw the kitchen sink at the situation, it looks like Arsenal. Hard to swallow that, with Sullivan struggling to get the £120m he wants and Rice likely to insist that's where he wants to go .

Whatever, this move has been in the making for over a year, amid some claims - never refuted - of annoyance from the Rice camp at the way last summer's contract discussions unfolded.

Offers were made, three if I recall, and all rejected. Rice wanted to go somewhere that would ensure trophies on a regular basis and Champions League football ensured. That's why Manchester City would be the best bet, but we've been there with that potential outcome.

But that's all for the days after Prague and it could well take a little time. In the end, Rice will be placed alongside Moore and Bonds. Not sure I go along with that.

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Moore lifted the FA Cup and European Cup Winners Cup in 1964 and 1965 respectively. He'd been with us since boyhood and played on after the European success for nine more years. Rice may well be gone in nine weeks, even days.

Bonds lifted the FA Cup in 1975 and 1980 and stayed at Upton Park for another eight years before retiring at 41. For me, the speed that Rice will leave, and the months of barely disguised transfer activity, will prevent him being held in the same esteem as Moore and Bonds.

And now I'm being picky, but I don't go along with him being referred to as one of our own. That should only apply to players who come through the junior ranks. Ben Johnson, now 23, joined West Ham when he was seven. Divin Mubama, now 18, arrived when he was nine.

Rice only crossed our threshold when he was 14, having been released by Chelsea, where he had been since he was seven. A born and bred Chelsea fan and player.

He made his West Ham debut at 17 in 2017, and now has 244 games to his credit. You don't become a legend in six years.

But Rice has been the perfect spokesman for the modern player. He's talked about his only focus being keeping West Ham in the Premier League and winning a European trophy. He's talked a good game and played one too.

And in the background, the clinical, cold-eyed Team Rice have been working to make the next move happen and all the riches and trophies that come with it. Who hasn't spoken to his father!

His career has been carefully crafted by his father, family and advisors for some years. It was expedient that he switch from the Republic of Ireland to England in 2018, all within the rules but the Irish, and then boss Martin O'Neill, were not that impressed.

So one more game Declan Rice, and hold that trophy high as you depart. And I'm sure we all wish you all the luck in the world. Goodbye and thanks for the memories.

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