West Ham United are reportedly “leading the chase” for Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse as they step up efforts to replace Declan Rice.
The Saints had a miserable 2022/23 season when they finished last in the Premier League. It ended up 11 points ahead of safety.
Their youth squad was not good enough to stay in the top flight, but Ward-Prowse was their best player during the season. He scored nine goals and four assists in the league for the Saints.
The England international is one of the players to leave Southampton this summer and was linked with Tottenham Hotspur last month.
Spurs were never going to be alone in targeting Ward-Prowse, who have proven themselves in the Premier League over the past nine seasons.
The Sun reports that “Southampton hope to land up to £40m for captain Ward-Prowse”. “He has three years left on his contract and will be wanted this summer, which will lead to an optimistic valuation for the club.”
West Ham are “in pursuit” of the midfielder and have been “following him for a long time”. The Hammers are also “eager to add Fulham’s Joao Palhinha alongside him as they look to replace Rice.” It was recently indicated that Palhinha is valued at around £60m.
The report adds: “Despite Ward-Prowse’s age, suitors still believe each deal has potential resale value given his goals and assists as well as his set-piece prowess.
“No talks have taken place between Ward-Prowse and the clubs concerned at this stage, and the Saints academy graduate is planning to rest a bit after his final Southampton game against Liverpool on Sunday.”
Ward-Prowse got his name on the scoresheet as Southampton drew 4-4 with Liverpool on the final day. He received a huge ovation from the fans when he was defeated with minutes left.
Speaking after the match, Ward-Prowse suggested a summer transfer as “you never know what’s going to happen in the future”.
“It’s nice of course, it’s a club that meant a lot to me,” said Ward-Prowse.
“I have been here for 20 years and have had a fantastic journey, enjoying every minute.
“You never know what will happen in the future.
“This season I’m leaving with my head held high knowing I’ve done everything I could for this club, not just this year but since I walked through the door as an eight-year-old.
“It hurts me to play a part in not maintaining that status in the Premier League, but I’m sure this club will come back in the future.”