Chelsea’s stance on signings in the summer suggests they will return and look to test West Ham’s resolve over keeping Declan Rice – and they may even do so in January. The Blues had a busy summer with seven signings in Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Malang Sarr, Thiago Silva, Kai Havertz and Edouard Mendy.
The only major target that Frank Lampard could not bring to Stamford Bridge was West Ham and England defensive midfielder Rice.
The 21-year-old has racked up over 100 Premier League appearances for the Hammers and established himself as one of the division’s most promising young players, also racking up 11 international caps.
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Lampard sees Rice as an option both in defence and in midfield long term with the player having been tipped to come to the Bridge as a centre-back option earlier in the window.
But after Silva’s arrival, Rice remained a target for Chelsea, but instead as a holding midfielder to compete with – or replace – the likes of Jorginho and N’Golo Kante.
Thomas Partey was linked to the Blues late on in the window but instead left Atletico Madrid for Arsenal on deadline day in a £45million deal.
Yet discussing the links to Partey, transfer expert Fabrizio Romano insists the Ghanaian was never on Lampard’s radar.
Romano said on the Here We Go podcast: “To be honest I think Thomas Partey didn’t really interest Chelsea. My sources never said, ‘Okay we’re going for Thomas, let’s sign Thomas.’
“Chelsea were not involved in the race for Thomas. The decision from Chelsea this summer in general was, ‘We are going for the top targets.’
“So Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Edouard Mendy, Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva. ‘We go for our top, top targets. If we can’t sign them, we prefer to stay with our players.’
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“So their decision about the midfielder in the last days was that they were going to try again for Declan Rice.
“They did it because they were talking with West Ham, West Ham always said, ‘No, we are not selling the player.’
“Chelsea said, ‘Okay we stay with Jorginho, we stay with [N’Golo] Kante, we stay with our players and we’re not going for Thomas Partey.’
“Arsenal were fantastic with their strategy, not talking with Atletico Madrid, just paying the clause. The strategy was perfect but Chelsea were not involved in the race.”
And Chelsea’s insistence that they would not settle for back-up options indicates that they will instead go back for Rice.
Rather than go down their list and sign an alternative option, they stuck to their guns in a similar way that Liverpool tend to do in the transfer market, having done so with Virgil van Dijk.
The Dutchman, who the Reds could not sign from Southampton in the summer, eventually got his Anfield switch the following January and refusing to alter their plans has proven the right plan of attack for the Premier League champions.
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It appears Rice, who had the option to represent Republic of Ireland at international level but instead picked the Three Lions, is Lampard’s long-term target for the No 6 role.
And as such, he will be eager to get him in at Chelsea as soon as he possibly can, which could mean a January offer.
Chelsea have shown in previous January windows that they are not opposed to spending big money midway through a season, splashing just shy of £60m for Christian Pulisic in January 2019.
Twelve months earlier, they spent over £50m to bring Ross Barkley, Emerson Palmieri and Olivier Giroud to west London.
And despite West Ham’s stance that Rice is not for sale, if Chelsea can offload more fringe players in the winter window, perhaps they could raise the cash to make a first official bid for the midfielder that their fellow Londoners would find difficult to reject.
If Chelsea don’t make a move in January, then West Ham can certainly expect a fight to keep hold of Rice – who is under contract until 2024 – next summer as Lampard looks to add another piece to his up-and-coming team.
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