Chelsea target Declan Rice could have a decision to make in the summer transfer window with Manchester United expected to join Frank Lampard’s side in the race for the midfielder. West Ham midfielder Rice is a man in demand and is expected to be targeted by the Premier League’s big guns in 2021.
Rice was extensively linked with Chelsea last summer, with boss Lampard known to be an admirer of his talents.
No deal was done for the 21-year-old, who has played every minute of West Ham’s Premier League campaign this season.
Chelsea are still believed to be keen on Rice ahead of the transfer window opening next month, although it is highly unlikely the Hammers would sell to a rival midway through the campaign.
But the West London side are likely to face competition from United if they wait until the close season to try and land their man, with Red Devils executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward having made it clear the club’s focus is on summer transfer windows.
Nevertheless, there are five key reasons why Rice could choose Chelsea over United.
Home from home
Chelsea know all about Rice’s ability, of course, with the midfielder having been on the club’s books as a youngster.
Rice joined West Ham’s youth set-up in 2013, and has since gone from strength to strength, establishing himself as a key player and taking on captaincy duties.
He has been marked out as a future England skipper after becoming a Three Lions regular, and appears destined to move on to one of the Premier League’s top teams
It makes perfect sense that he would choose Chelsea, the club where he began his career, at a time when Lampard is determined to take them back to the top of English football.
The fact that Rice would not have to move out of his native London would also be a huge plus in favour of a switch to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea spent more than £200million last summer on new recruits including Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell and Edouard Mendy, also landing Thiago Silva on a free transfer.
The cash injection from Roman Abramovic was a clear statement of Chelsea’s ambitions to be genuine title contenders both domestically and in the Champions League.
While some have adapted better than others, the overall effect has generally been in the right direction.
Lampard’s side topped their European group and were on an excellent run in the Premier League until successive defeats to Everton and Wolves halted their momentum.
By contrast, United have failed to land their top targets in the last two transfer windows. And while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have hit form domestically, their Champions League exit earlier this month shows they have some way to go before returning to their past glories.
Once the likes of Werner, Havertz and Hakim Ziyech properly adapt to Premier League football, Chelsea could have a squad of frightening potential for Rice to join.
It is well known that Rice and midfielder Mason Mount are best pals, with their long association going back to their days together as youngsters at Chelsea.
Mount has continued to be a key player for Chelsea this season despite increased competition following the club’s summer splurge, as well as continuing his immersion in the England set-up.
In joining Chelsea, Rice would link up with Mount once again – and the two 21-year-olds would have chance to strike up a partnership that could be the future not only of Chelsea’s midfield, but also for the national team.
Rice is viewed as the potential successor to N’Golo Kante at the base of Chelsea’s midfield.
Kante has frequently the subject of transfer speculation with many of the Europe’s top clubs keen on the midfielder – while his team-mate Jorginho is also often linked with a move away.
With Kante now 29 and Jorginho just a year younger,Chelsea will be able to lure Rice with the promise that he is the future of the holding position at Stamford Bridge.
By contrast, at United he would be in competition with Scott McTominay, who is only 24.
Rice’s versatility also comes into play here, with the midfielder able to play as a centre-back.
United and Chelsea will both need defensive reinforcements next summer. But at Stamford Bridge, Rice will be able to learn from a serial silverware winner in Thiago. And with the Brazilian now 36, he is another player whose successor Lampard needs to find.
One final factor in Chelsea’s favour would be the opportunity to work under Frank Lampard, one of the finest midfielders of his generation.
While Rice is not the same type of player as Lampard, the 21-year-old will have grown up watching the former England star, and will be fully aware of how much he can learn from one of the club’s greatest ever players.