Chelsea chiefs have one key doubt about Declan Rice transfer as West Ham demand £73m fee

Some behind the scenes at Chelsea are reportedly concerned that Declan Rice has not improved enough technically since being released by the club six years ago – although Frank Lampard is a huge fan of the West Ham midfielder as he looks to bring him to Stamford Bridge before October 5.

Having signed six players already this summer and with Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy also targeted, Chelsea boss Lampard would love to complete his summer spend with the addition of Rice.

The England international, 21, has racked up 100 Premier League appearances for West Ham having been released by Chelsea’s academy in 2014.

He had been in the Blues’ youth system since the age of seven and remains close friends with Mason Mount, now a prominent member of Lampard’s first-team squad in west London.

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Rice has grown into one of the league’s most promising deep-lying midfielders but is being eyed by Lampard as a long-term option at centre-back.

Yet The Athletic’s David Ornstein says there are some at Chelsea who feel Rice, despite also being a regular in Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions squads, has not improved enough technically to justify a price tag that could be in the region of £73million (€80m).

Ornstein said on Tifo Football’s Ask Ornstein show: “In essence the view of the West Ham hierarchy as I understand it is that Rice is not for sale under any circumstances. Now you can immediately say, ‘Well we’ve heard this sort of thing before…’ 

“Take Leicester for example with Ben Chilwell, similar noises coming out of that club then he ended up going to Chelsea, that Chelsea, especially in this transfer window, get whatever they want.

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“But others I’ve spoken to who are very close to West Ham say that their stance is true and that he will not be leaving, it’s unthinkable in this transfer window. Especially after the uproar from West Ham fans and many throughout the game that they sold their homegrown product Grady Diangana to West Brom. 

“It showed that they needed money and that they would cash in on Declan Rice at the right price. It’s just my knowledge, and I’m not saying it’s going to be the case, but I just don’t see that happening. 

“We do know of Chelsea’s interest, Frank Lampard is really keen on Declan Rice, he’d like to bring him to Stamford Bridge and convert him into a top-class centre-back. 

“There are some reservations about Rice among some at Stamford Bridge over the price it would take to potentially entice West Ham into selling. 

“I originally heard €55-60million but more recently I’ve heard up to €80million and that’s a player that was released by Chelsea’s academy as a 14 year old and some at the club feel, they’re not convinced that he’s addressed the perceived technical deficiencies that encouraged them to let him go at that age. 

“I would say that Rice, West Ham to Chelsea, is very improbable however much West Ham need the money to invest in other areas. 

“I think he’s key, I think he looks happy, certainly before lockdown when he went over after scoring that spectacular goal to celebrate with David Moyes, although he did like the tweet from Mark Noble criticising the sale of Diangana.”

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Chelsea left-back Emerson Palmieri has been linked to West Ham as part of a potential player-plus-cash deal for Rice and Ornstein has confirmed that the Hammers are a fan of the Italian defender.

He continued: “Emerson is one I understand is of interest to West Ham as a left-back option and also Sead Kolasinac of Arsenal was one who was on their recruitment list as an option.

“There are counter reports that Kolasinac is likely to stay at Arsenal or unlikely to move to West Ham. 

“There’s a lot of interest in him from clubs abroad including Schalke, reportedly, his former club. 

“We’ll see what happens on that because he may want to stay at Arsenal and fight for his place under Mikel Arteta.”

After winning their Premier League opener against Brighton on Monday night, Chelsea return to action against Liverpool on Sunday (4.30pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports).

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