Declan Rice has sent a message of thanks to West Ham fans after owner David Sullivan confirmed that the midfielder had played his last ever game for the club.
Rice, 24, captained the Irons to victory in Wednesday's dramatic Europa League Conference League final, as they beat Italian side Fiorentina 2-1 to end their 58-year wait for a European trophy. The England international had the honour of lifting the grand piece of silverware, but just hours later Sullivan revealed that the famous night in Prague would mark his final bow for West Ham.
"I think it has to be," the Irons owner admitted on talkSPORT the morning after. "We promised him he could go. He set his heart on going. You can't ask for a man who has committed more to us this season. In due course, he has to get on and we have to get a replacement - or several replacements.
"It's cost him £10million to stay at West Ham in that time (in lost wages). And he wants to go. You can't keep a player who doesn't want to be there."
After revelling in the celebrations, including an open-top bus parade through East London on Thursday evening, Rice took to Instagram to send a message supporters, the vast majority of whom are begging him to stay. "Thank you to the fans, staff, my friends and my family for all the support," the 24-year-old wrote. "I'm glad we could bring it home for you. It's an honour to captain this football Club. History makers."
Image:Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images)
The two clubs most prominently battling for his highly sought-after signature are Bayern Munich and West Ham's Premier League rivals, Arsenal. Despite the latter being favourites, Rice recently held talks with German giants Bayern, who are reportedly ready to pay £95million to sign him - although that might not be enough to match West Ham's asking price.
Boss David Moyes declared earlier this season that his club would only sell Rice for a new British-record transfer fee, one which would eclipse the £107m that Chelsea paid to sign Enzo Fernandez from Portuguese heavyweights Benfica six months ago. "There's a lot of talk about it," Moyes said in February. "When you see what's going about for the prices, I think Dec will be blowing that out of the water, that's for sure, when it comes around."
Rice has remained non-comital on his future, admitting that he's flattered by the interest from the likes of Arsenal and Bayern. "There's a lot of speculation going on about my future," he told BT Sport. "There is interest from other clubs. That's out there.
"But ultimately I've still got two years left at West Ham. I love this club. I love playing for this club. There hasn't been nothing yet so my focus is playing for West Ham, enjoying tonight and seeing what happens. I'm captain of this club, I absolutely love it to pieces. I cannot speak highly enough of this place and let's see what happens."