West Ham midfielder Declan Rice has insisted that Champions League football is a massive priority as he looks to take his career to the next level.
The 23-year-old has established himself as one of the top midfielders in the Premier League – and across Europe. Following his West Ham debut at the end of the 2016/17 season, he has racked up 157 top-flight outings.
Furthermore, he has 27 England caps and will star at the World Cup after his standout role at Euro 2020.
His current priority is playing Champions League football with West Ham. David Moyes’ men just missed out last season, finishing sixth in the Premier League.
However, the Hammers are firmly in the top-four hunt again this term. What’s more, they could yet qualify by winning this season’s Europa League.
In any case, Rice has insisted that he wants premier European football urgently. He has had long-term transfer links with current holders Chelsea and top-four chasing Manchester United.
“It is as urgent as possible. I feel like, not only for me, that’s for every young player as well,” Rice told the Evening Standard.
“We are really close with West Ham at the minute and last season it was gutting to lose out on it but we are pushing.
“We’ll keep going. Champions League is a big aim of mine and hopefully one day I can play in it and do well.”
Rice added that he feels he is at the level now where he is able to seamlessly step into top European football.
“I feel like I am one of the established top players around the world,” he said.
“I am only 23, so I am still young — that’s what I mean in that sense — but in terms of my playing ability and the way I’ve performed consistently, I see myself as an established player now who’s got good experience and can play at any level if required.”
Reports earlier this year claimed that Man Utd would soon begin the groundwork over a mega-money bid for Rice. Meanwhile, Mason Mount – a good friend of Rice’s – is starring at Chelsea.
Declan Rice facing crunch few months
Either way, Rice is facing a crucial few months where he can affect West Ham, Chelsea and Man Utd’s chances of finishing in the top four.
His sole focus will be on the Hammers’ run-in, with 11 games left of their campaign.
But West Ham still have to play Chelsea, who sit third. However, their patchy form this season has meant Man Utd are only three points behind in fourth, with West Ham fifth.
As a result, all three clubs could yet change positions before the domestic season comes to a close.
Meanwhile, there is also the Europa League for West Ham to focus on. Moyes’ men play Sevilla in the first leg of their last 16 tie next Thursday.