In case you didn’t know, Chelsea have released midfielder Rice at 14 from Cobham Academy, where he played alongside current reigning player of the season Mason Mount.
West Ham stepped in, offered Rice a lawsuit, and the rest is history. These days Hammers Academy graduate Rice leads his squad with no longer a regular Mark Noble, is a very established member of the England squad for Gareth Southgate and is one of the the continent’s best defensive midfielders.
Rice’s progress has been such that former Blues boss Frank Lampard wanted to bring Rice back to West London while at the helm. West Ham has stood their ground, refused even to hold any sort of talks or offers and slapped a £ 100million price tag on Rice’s head to ward off any suitors.
He’s only 22 too. If the Hammers get Champions League football next season, Rice will get them there. If they don’t, the big guns will spin again.
Man City and Man Utd have always been linked with transfers for the extremely talented player alongside Chelsea long before David Moyes warned that it would take ‘Bank of England money’ to keep Rice away from the east of London.
The midfielder continues to make huge strides with the Hammers and transfer links to Chelsea won’t go away, certainly not when the two sides face each other – it’s no different in December 2021.
A Chelsea fan since childhood, it seems almost inevitable that Rice will return to Stamford Bridge at some point, but if the Hammers continue to progress as they have been, it could take some time.
So it was no surprise when Thomas Tuchel was asked about the England international in his pre-match press conference on Friday ahead of the Premier League’s first vs.4th clash on Saturday midday.
“Well these things happen and I can’t comment on that because it happens in every club in the world, sometimes players are released in an instant and they have their careers in a different way, so that’s is a pretty normal thing, ”Tuchel mentioned.
“I am absolutely aware that he is a boy from Chelsea and that he comes from the academy and that he is very close to our guys. He is a very strong player.
Tuchel is never one to dwell on transfer rumors for long and immediately passed Rice by bringing his midfielder partner Tomas Soucek into the equation.
The Czech midfielder has been exceptional for the Hammers since making a first six-month loan in January 2020 and making it permanent this summer.
Soucek scored ten goals last season as the Hammers qualified for the Europa League and he has formed a very impressive partnership with Rice, some might say he is the best midfield axis in the top flight.
Tuchel identified the West Ham midfielder as a key battleground on Saturday. The Blues will be cut off from N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic due to injury, but Jorginho is expected to return to the starting lineup after missing Wednesday’s win at Watford.
“I am absolutely impressed with Soucek and him [Rice], Tuchel added.
“What they have been doing since I entered the Premier League. What they’re doing for West Ham. They are real helpers on the pitch, they both have incredible volume. They take responsibility for high pressing, deep defense, filling gaps on the wings, deep building, setting goals from set pieces.
“The two just do it all. Declan is an important member of the England squad so that speaks for itself.
“Very strong in construction, very intelligent in passing and of course they are quality players. On top of that, both midfielders represent pretty much what West Ham is, they have a heart to play this game to the fullest and they are very good characters when it comes to sportsmanship.
“They play with passion, the whole team plays with passion, they never give up and there is a lot of quality behind that. “