Chelsea still have their sights set on Declan Rice and have even preserved him as their priority target in midfield, according to the latest reports about the West Ham captain’s future.
Rice has been linked with Chelsea for a number of years thanks to his performances from West Ham. Following Mark Noble’s retirement in the summer, the England international has become the Hammers’ captain.
His status is already significant at the age of 23 and he appears destined for a big future. It may be one bigger than Chelsea originally foresaw when releasing him from their academy in 2014.
Since his senior breakthrough elsewhere in London, Rice has been tipped to head back to Stamford Bridge at some stage in his career. A player of his quality and ambition could excel at a club competing in the Champions League.
Therefore, he remains on Chelsea’s agenda. Former boss Frank Lampard seemed to be a big fan, links continued while Thomas Tuchel was in charge, and now some are predicting a place for Rice in Graham Potter’s side.
Although Rice admitted he isn’t always keen on being the subject of rumours over the summer, the speculation is still following him.
According to 90min, Chelsea are keeping him as their priority midfield target for 2023. Todd Boehly wants to construct a squad of the world’s most exciting young talents, a plan which Rice fits into.
Investing in their midfield will be a key task for Chelsea next year. Doubts linger about the future of N’Golo Kante, while Jorginho has also reached the age of 30 and is in the final year of his contract.
England star’s transfer stance revealed
Rice is someone who could sit at the base of their midfield in either option’s place for years to come. Hence, a big-money bid from the Blues could materialise in 2023.
Promisingly, the report from 90min has also claimed that Rice “is expecting to leave” West Ham next summer so he can further himself. In turn, Chelsea are the “firm favourites” to acquire his services.
There will be competition from elsewhere if a player of Rice’s pedigree is available. Of course, by next summer, he will be approaching the final year of his contract with West Ham. That said, his current employers can trigger an option to extend his commitment until 2025.
They have held firm over his high valuation so far. However, for as long as Rice is on their books, they will seemingly have to put up with rumours about him leaving for potentially bigger and better things.
Crucial season for Declan Rice
After qualifying for Europe over two consecutive seasons, and reaching the semi-final of last term’s Europa League, West Ham have been in a good place recently.
Their start to the current season, despite a summer of investment, has left something to be desired, though.
They will need to improve their form over time, or they will risk Declan Rice becoming unsettled.
If they can revive their fortunes and match what they have done for the bulk of David Moyes’ second spell in charge, then staying at West Ham could still be an attractive option.
But perhaps there will always be a sense of what might have been for Chelsea and Rice. The only way for them to resolve it would be to go all in for a transfer.