West Ham ended a 43-year wait for a trophy with victory in the Europa Conference League final, as skipper Declan Rice cemented his legacy at the club in what now appears to have been his final game.
Only two Hammers’ captains had ever lifted silverware before Rice got his hands on the Conference League trophy in Prague following a dramatic 2-1 victory over Fiorentina.
Rice joins some esteemed company in the club’s hall of fame with Bobby Moore having been captain of the West Ham team that won the 1965 Cup Winners’ Cup, while Billy Bonds had the armband on for the 1975 and 1980 FA Cup victories.
But Wednesday’s win and the celebrations after will prove a bittersweet moment for the Irons with chairman David Sullivan confirming Rice is set to be sold this summer.
The England international might not be the only one bidding farewell to the London Stadium amid ongoing speculation over David Moyes’ future and a big summer awaits the Hammers.
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Rice has been a Hammer since the age of 14 when the London club picked him up following his release from Chelsea’s academy.
In his decade-long stint with West Ham, the 24-year-old has developed into one of the finest midfielders in the country and has been vital to the Hammers’ continued presence in the Premier League.
From powering the Irons to a sixth-place finish in 2020-21 to a couple of successful relegation scraps, Rice has been through a lot in his time with the club.
But the undoubted high for Rice came in Prague on Wednesday night and victory in the Europa Conference League final.
Not counting the Intertoto Cup in 1999, West Ham’s only previous European trophy came 58 years ago and the club’s continental campaigns have been few and far between in the interim.
Getting to the final was an achievement in itself - West Ham had only previously been to two finals since they last won a trophy in 1980 - but to then beat a good Fiorentina team makes the achievement all the more remarkable.
The Hammers held their nerve on the night, not getting rattled after Giacomo Bonaventura had cancelled out Said Benrahma's opener from the penalty spot.
And when the chance came for Jarrod Bowen to win it for West Ham in the 90th minute, the ex-Hull City forward didn’t disappoint, further enhancing his reputation as a player that can deliver at the highest level.
Bowen might be another one to attract interest in the summer, but the club won’t want to lose him and Rice in the same transfer window after confirming they are open to offers for the latter.
Speaking to Talksport, club chairman Sullivan revealed Rice’s intentions to leave this summer and that the Hammers are willing to let him go, at the right price. Arsenal are the 2/5 front runners at this stage to sign Rice, the Gunners having identified the England international as a top target in January.
Arsenal are prioritising central midfield as an area they need to strengthen after feeling a lack of quality in that position cost them in the Premier League title race last season.
German champions Bayern Munich have also been mentioned as holding an interest in Rice with head coach Thomas Tuchel understood to be a big fan and they are 6/1 to sign him.
Manchester United are also 6/1 having held a long-standing interest in Rice, while it’s 8/1 he remains at West Ham.
Rice’s exit will leave a big hole in the Hammers midfield and boss Moyes faces a tough job trying to fill the void left by the 24-year-old.
But there’s some question marks over whether it will be Moyes helping with the search for Rice’s successor amid long-running speculation regarding his future.
West Ham are understood to have considered replacing the Scot, who has a year left to run on his current contract, with the likes of Rafael Benitez, Graham Potter and Brendan Rodgers linked with the position.
Some members of the West Ham fanbase were eager to see a change in the dugout before Moyes masterminded a Europa Conference League victory, despite the 60-year-old’s previous achievements at the London Stadium.
Moyes took West Ham to the Europa League semi-finals last season and has guided them to two top-seven finishes in the league.
While they did flirt with relegation this season, they were able to pull clear eventually.
Getting rid of a safe pair of hands like Moyes as well as Rice seems like an unnecessary risk for West Ham to take.
But that’s a decision for another day, for now, the happy Hammers can revel in a rare moment of success.