FORMER Ireland international Declan Rice has become the most expensive British footballer of all time after moving from West Ham to Arsenal.
Rice, 24, moved across the English capital on Saturday in a deal worth £105m, surpassing the £100m Manchester City paid Aston Villa for Jack Grealish in 2021.
In switching to the Gunners from the Hammers, Rice also becomes the second most expensive Premier League player ever.
In January, Argentinian World Cup winner Enzo Fernández joined Chelsea from Benfica in a deal worth more than £106m.
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After completing the transfer, Rice said he was looking forward to working with Gunners boss Mikel Arteta, who led Arsenal to second place in the Premier League last season.
“I’ve been looking at Arsenal over the last couple of seasons and the trajectory they’ve been going on,” he said.
“Not last season but the season before, they finished fifth but you could see the style of play Mikel was implementing.
“Last season was an outstanding season, blowing pretty much every team out of the water with the exception of Man City.”
Ireland U17 Player of the Year
Rice, whose paternal grandparents are from Co. Cork, made 18 appearances at various youth levels for Ireland between 2015 and 2018.
In 2017, he was named Ireland U17 Player of the Year, having scored two goals in six appearances for Ireland at that level.
He received a senior call-up in May 2017, shortly after making his Premier League debut for West Ham in a 2-1 win over Burnley.
He finally made his senior international debut the following season, playing the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 friendly loss to Turkey.
He made two more friendly appearances at the end of the season, again playing the full 90 minutes in a 2-0 loss to France and a 2-1 win over the USA.
However, after that successful breakthrough season, in which he made 26 Premier League appearances for West Ham, he began to consider representing the country of his birth.
Rice was omitted from several Ireland squads under both Martin O’Neill and his successor Mick McCarthy while he contemplated his international future.
Social media posts
In February 2019, he confirmed he would change allegiances, making his England debut off the bench in March 2019 in a 5-0 European qualifier victory over the Czech Republic.
Ahead of the game, Rice apologised after old social media posts resurfaced in which he used a pro-IRA slogan during his time with Ireland’s youth teams.
Rice, who was 16 at the time of the posts, said the ‘poorly-expressed comment’ was an ‘attempt to show support for my team-mates at the time’.
“While my naïve words were not meant to be a political opinion and do not represent who I am, I sincerely apologise for any offence caused,” he added.
Later that year, Rice revealed he had received social media threats following his international switch.
The midfielder has gone on to make 43 appearances for England, scoring three goals.
He played in England’s Euro 2020 Final against Italy and featured in all five of the country’s games at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Grealish, Bellingham and Kane
Manchester City winger Grealish, the player Rice has overtaken as the most expensive British footballer of all time, was also at the centre of a similar storm over his international allegiance.
The Birmingham-born player has grandparents from Dublin, Kerry and Galway.
Grealish made 19 appearances at various youth levels for Ireland between 2011 and 2014, scoring six goals, before reportedly rejecting two senior call-ups from O’Neill.
He later represented England seven times at U21 level before making his senior debut in a Nations League game against Denmark in September 2020.
Meanwhile, the third most expensive British player, Jude Bellingham, was also eligible to play for Ireland.
The former Birmingham City midfielder moved from Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid for an initial £88.5m last month, in a deal that could ultimately rise to £115m.
Bellingham’s father Mark previously revealed his son has an Irish grandparent, while childhood pictures of the player decked out in an Ireland kit appeared in a documentary about his career.
Elsewhere, England’s all-time top scorer Harry Kane — who has been linked with a big-money move to Bayern Munich this summer — was also eligible to play for Ireland.
The Spurs forward qualified through his Galway-born father but only ever represented England at youth level before making his senior Three Lions debut in 2015.
Tottenham have reportedly turned down bids of £60m and £70m for the 29-year-old.