Chelsea are expected to push for the signing of Declan Rice at the end of the season, football.london understands.
The Blues are long-term admirers of the 22-year-old midfielder, who was released by the west London club when he was a teenager, and they are largely expected to ramp their interest up next summer.
Rice has been so impressive for the Hammers this term, as he continues to establish himself as one of the strongest defensive midfielders in the Premier League.
West Ham are once again pushing for European football this season, but have won just one match in their previous seven Premier League outings.
Now, former Wales international Dean Saunders has warned West Ham that the east London club need to spend big over the January transfer window in order to keep the likes of Rice happy with the project at the London Stadium.
Speaking to The Sports Bar, Saunders said: “I don’t think West Ham are the same team without Antonio. He’s a massive player for them. He does all the chasing down and is a nuisance on the break.
“He runs down the sides, strong as an ox, and gets goals. The owners have been chucking money at it for a while now. When Pellegrini was the manager, they gave him a load of money and that did not work.
“David Moyes, they get him back and he has got a team together now. If I was one of the owners now, I’d be saying: ‘What do you need, David?’.
“West Ham are on the brink of the next step. This is the best team they have had for years and years. They have got really good players.
“The thing is now, if they do not show the players they are going to take the next step, your best players will leave. If they can see you are trying to win something and going to go forward, the likes of Declan Rice will be saying: ‘I’m happy here’.
“If you are not buying players and going forward, then you are going backwards.”
What’s been said on Rice’s future?
West Ham manager David Moyes, when speaking about Rice in October, admitted that the chance to get the England international for £100million has “now gone”.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the Hammers boss said: “There was a bargain to be got with Declan at £100m. That bargain has now gone.
“We have a lot of really good players at this football club and I think while you’re building and developing I think people might always come and look at your players.
“But it is good that they are because that is telling us that they’re doing well.”
Tuchel’s view on Rice
Ahead of Chelsea’s defeat to West Ham at the start of December, Thomas Tuchel lauded Rice, which fuelled speculation over a possible move to Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel said this on Rice: “It happens at every single club in the world that sometimes players get released in one moment and they have their career in a different way, so this is a pretty normal thing.
“I am absolutely aware that he is a Chelsea boy and he comes through the academy and he is very close to our guy.
“He is a very strong player and in general, I am absolutely impressed by (Tomas) Soucek and him, what they do since I came into the Premier League. What they do for West Ham.
“They are real helpers on the pitch, they have an incredible volume both of them. They take responsibility for high pressing, for deep defending, for filling the gaps on the wings, for deep build-up, for goals from set-pieces. Both of them are simply doing everything.”
Source by Football London