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West Ham United could replace Rice with Pablo Maia

West Ham United have recently expressed interest in Brazilian midfielder Pablo Maia, with the 20-year-old possibly growing into the role of the potentially departing Declan Rice, should a move to the London Stadium materialise for the Sao Paulo gem.

Brazilian journalist Andre Hernan recently revealed in a video that Irons manager David Moyes attempted to lure Maia to London by contacting Sao Paulo with a loan offer containing an option to buy, which was rejected.

Moyes has since pondered over launching a bid to bring Maia to the London Stadium on a permanent deal this winter, and with Premier League trio Southampton, Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur all said to be eyeing the youngster as well, a move should be swiftly instigated by GSB and co.

Available for a reported £9m, Maia could indeed adapt to the role that Rice currently holds so well, with The Guardian recently reporting that the 23-year-old Englishman wishes to depart the Hammers before the expiry of his contract in 2024.

Rice will leave big boots to fill, with the Irons owing a large portion of the recent success over the past couple of years to his leadership from the middle of the park.

With the midfielder – who West Ham have valued at £150m seeming likely to leave in search of Champions League football, the club must act diligently if they are to make the transition from his departure a seamless one.

Signing Maia for a low fee in comparison to what Rice’s prospective departure is likely to yield would not only be a shrewd move, but would leave ample funding to bolster other positions in the squad.

Maia himself could certainly prove a worthwhile replacement. Labelled a “mini-Casemiro” by talent scout Jacek Kulig, he ranks within the top 4% for pass completion, 10% blocks, and 14% for aerial success rate when compared to positional peers across Men’s ‘next eight’ leagues worldwide (the division below the top five European leagues, as per FBRef).

Rice ranks within the top 5% for pass competition among midfielders across Europe’s big five leagues in 2022, with also illustrating his defensive aptitudes with 2.4 tackles, 1.6 interceptions and 1.3 clearances per game at the heart of West Ham’s midfield in the Premier League this season (Sofascore). 

Maia could adapt to that role at the London Stadium and make it his own, providing a “stability” to the team, as remarked by Sao Paulo sporting director Muricy Ramalho. 

There is evidently an abundance of talent within this budding Brazilian gem, who has already earned plaudits for his Casemiro-esque ability; and with Moyes needing to make the correct replacement for Rice if the West Ham captain departs, Maia appears to be the man for the job.