For a football fan, there’s nothing more exciting in the summer than a big-money commitment.
Then, almost invariably, there’s nothing crazier than watching a player recruited for a large transfer fee either become frustrated or a flop at his new club.
Declan Rice becomes the most expensive English player in the Premier League after completing his £105m move from West Ham to Arsenal – 17thmove to a Premier League club for £70m or more.
And these signings rarely materialized.
The last 16 to have made such big strides are Enzo Fernandez, Jack Grealish, Romelu Lukaku (twice), Paul Pogba, Mykhailo Mudryk, Antony, Darwin Nunez, Harry Maguire,Jadon Sancho, Nicolas Pepe, Kepa Arrizabalaga Fofana, Kai Havertz and Casemiro.
Only Van Dijk and Casemiro proved to be instant hits.
And while Grealish is now thriving at Manchester City after a difficult first year – and undecided at some others – most of those have been bitter disappointments.
However, rice feels different. Here’s a 24-year-old at the peak of his powers with more than 200 Premier League appearances and the skills and personality that make him seem like a surefire success.
It’s hard to imagine Rice being impressed by his new surroundings at the Emirates as he prepares for his Champions League debut with a club returning to the top of European football after a five-year absence.
Rice has just won a European Cup while captaining West Ham – a feat Arsenal have not managed in almost 30 years.
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He was also outstanding for England at a World Cup and a European Cup.
And for Arsenal, Rice is clearly an improvement over Granit Xhaka, who joined Bayer Leverkusen after a lengthy stint with the Gunners.
That doesn’t mean Rice will necessarily make the difference between finishing second last season and winning the title for ArsenalExpression.
Many believe that last season, with so many other big clubs struggling or in turmoil, was Mikel Arteta’s best chance to lead Arsenal– especially since they’ve been at the top of the table for most of the season.
But the signing of Rice, along with those of Havertz and Jurrien Timber, represents serious evidence of the Gunners’ ambition, a determination to prove last season’s title prospects were no flash in the pan.
City had a chance for Rice, as they did for Jude Bellingham, and if Pep Guardiola had signed one of the England midfielders it would have been harder than ever to imagine someone ending up above them next season.
Many of those other expensive Premier League recruits have struggled in the new environment – particularly those who have moved from abroad – and others have been unable to cope with the burden of their costs.
Neither is likely to apply to Rice.
Off the field, he’s one of the most likeable men out there. On the pitch, he’s a hard-fought and confident leader – a more obvious captain than Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard or England’s Harry Kane.
It’s likely that Rice will soon wear the captain’s armband for both his new club and his country, despite the fact that the subject of captaincy is usually over-hyped in football.
Rice possesses a natural authority and is unlikely to dwindle at Arsenal, especially in such a young dressing room.
You’d be hard pressed to find a Hammers fan who seriously disapproves of Rice’s move – especially after the farewell in last month’s Europa Conference League final against Fiorentina in Prague.
Rice was honest enough to admit his Champions League aspirations without ever making the stink, publicly or privately, that he would want to leave – and the Hammers, in turn, were realistic and accepted his departure but still collected a hefty fee.
It also helps that West Ham fans tend to loathe Millwall, Tottenham and Chelsea, while Arsenal are viewed with only a slight dislike.
During his last two seasons at West Ham, Rice – who originally featured as a centre-back – developed into a box-to-box midfielder, a role he says he enjoys more than the more disciplined moderating duties he carries out for England.
Arteta encourages a fluid style, so Rice likely has a reasonable range of motion.
While England head coach Gareth Southgate will never be outspoken about the future of his players’ clubs, he will be pleased to see Rice join Arsenal, Bellingham join Real Madrid, Mason Mount seek a new career at Manchester United and James Maddison join Spurs .
With a year to go before the European Championships, which England have a real chance of winning, four of Southgate’s midfielders have made positive moves this year.
There are no guarantees, especially when it comes to high-priced Premier League players.
But hardly does it seem more certain than Rice scoring for Arsenal from the start.