Liverpool are watching as Arsenal and Manchester City battle it out for Declan Rice in what feels like a definitive battle in the summer transfer window.
For the Reds, there will be a level of trepidation as the top two sides in the division go head-to-head with one of its outstanding midfielders, a move that could take them further down the road.
On Monday, Manchester City submitted a bid worth $115m (£90m/€105m) — $102m (£80m/€93m) of which was guaranteed — and saw West Ham turn it down. Arsenal previously offered a fixed $96m (£75m/€87m) with $19m (£15m/€17m) in add-ons (all figures via The Athletic).
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Even more than his on-field skills, one of Rice’s main selling points is his availability. As The Athletic points out, he has played at least 80 per cent of West Ham’s Premier League minutes in each of the last five seasons, including 100 per cent in 19/20, 93 per cent in 21/22 and 95.7 per cent last year.
The table below offers a breakdown of his playing time over the last four campaigns, where he has been a regular for both club and country.
Declan Rice played 215 games over four seasons.
|Season||West Ham||England||Total min||Total apps|
You can see that Rice has been particularly active in the last two seasons, with West Ham’s deep run in European competition being the driving force. Over the last two campaigns, he has made 119 appearances and 10,128 minutes of action.
For reference, only one Liverpool outfielder, the notoriously durable Mohamed Salah (4,296), was on the pitch longer than Rice last season.
This could be seen as a blessing – last season, in particular, the Reds were crying out for a midfielder of Rice’s quality and fitness record – but it could also eventually become a curse.
The player himself has previously raised concerns about his amount of football within the demands of the current schedule.
“I worked out last year from June  until June  I played 68 games,” he said, via The Mail.That’s an obscene amount of games.
“I don’t go into a game and don’t give 100 percent. Every game I go away and I’m dizzy. There are big games for West Ham and England. I don’t want to get injured or do anything stupid.”
Furthermore, David Moyes recognized the importance of ‘care’ for the player as he navigated the demands of being a key player for both club and country.
“We don’t use him in every game,” the Irons boss said, via Sky Sports. “But I think the point is that Declan played two games for England last week with a Premier League game as well.
“So we are trying to look after him for West Ham. We are trying to get the right condition for us as much as possible.”
Rice is only 24 but you wonder if that previously unprecedented accumulation of games might catch up with him at the end of his career. There is certainly a risk of burnout as the football calendar gets more intense, especially for a box-to-box midfielder who tends to be near the top of the distance covered charts every week.
Until now, clubs may have deliberately sought out players with more games under their belt on the grounds that they offer more experience and proven quantity.
But in this new age, where football’s governing bodies are squeezing everything and beyond elite-level sides in the pursuit of revenue, recruitment teams must be wary of the risks.
A player’s body can handle the load well into their early or mid-20s, but cumulative fatigue can only be managed for so long.
Liverpool are emphasizing young midfielders in its ongoing rebuild – Alexis Mac Allister is 24 and most of the other options have been in action at the under-21 Euros – but it must be considered if its targets are in good shape managed up to this point.
The effects of excess demand may only manifest themselves in the long term, but it is possible to shorten a player’s peak window.
A big-money deal conceived as a long-term gamble, such as this proposed move for Rice, may offer only medium-term benefits.
Players are starting to speak up and offer implicit warnings, and Liverpool must be careful.
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