Graeme Souness has said that Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea’s managers must bring out the “next level” in Declan Rice if they are to pay the £100million or more it will take to sign him.
West Ham and England midfielder Rice has attracted attention from the biggest Premier League clubs following his recent rise. Not only has he reached the milestone of 150 top flight games for the Hammers, he is a crucial England player.
What’s more, he only turns 23 later in January and so has the best years of his career ahead of him.
While he remains fully focused on West Ham’s battle for a top-four finish and their Europa League adventure, his long-term future remains on the agenda.
Recent reports claimed that Man Utd will begin the groundwork over a massive transfer bid for Rice in the coming weeks.
Nevertheless, Chelsea and Manchester City have both had strong links with a move for the midfielder, who can also play at centre-back.
According to pundit Souness, Jack Grealish’s summer move from Aston Villa to City has set the benchmark in negotiations over Rice’s future.
“Jack Grealish’s transfer from Aston Villa to Manchester City for £100million means that’s where the bidding is likely to start for Rice, who’s four years younger at 22,” Souness told the Sunday Times.
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“City already have the strongest group of players in the history of English football, but still collect the best players they can.
“Yes, they have Rodri, but Fernandinho’s 36 and in the final six months of his contract, so Rice is an obvious replacement because they have the finances and are buying when they are on top.
“City, Chelsea and United will all pay a premium for Rice. The only argument you can offer if you’re buying is that he’s not a striker and that’s where the big money generally goes. It might take Rice to another level.”
Rice first emerged on the Premier League scene at the end of the 2016/17 season.
Commenting on his development, Souness added that passing is a key trait Rice must develop if he gets a move to United, Chelsea or City.
Declan Rice has key task
“At first, I feared he might become one of those ‘steady Eddies’ who play it safe and square all the time and say they ‘recycle possession’ rather than have an impact on matches for their teams,” Souness added.
“Now I reckon Rice is going to be an in-demand footballer with the bigger clubs. Whether it’s Manchester United, Chelsea or Manchester City. I don’t think Liverpool will be in the chase for him, but the other three will.
“My doubts were whether he’d have enough football in him to play in midfield.
“He could, ultimately, still play at the back, but right now that would be like tying his bootlaces together because he has so much energy to burn and the technique to get out of tight areas.
“I still want him to see the picture and deliver the pass earlier, to make more telling passes in the final third, but that could come with confidence and he rarely gives the ball away.”
Rice has played 24 games so far this season, including all but one Premier League match.