Though his current deals runs until 2024, Rice has consistently been linked with a move to a Champions League club and is impatient to challenge for top honours on a more regular basis.
David Moyes, West Ham manager, confirmed that Rice turned down another contract offer recently but isn’t concerned about losing his midfield lynchpin at this point.
“I’ve said it [where I stand] and I think we have said what we think,” Moyes said following The Hammer defeat at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
“Maybe he just wants more money. People do turn down contracts. It is not unusual for players at clubs to turn down contracts, maybe it is a negotiation tactic.”
Of course, if West Ham win the Europa League this season he can achieve that dream by staying put, but his chances of consistently playing at Europe’s top table are most likely enhanced away from London Stadium.
Much has been made of his release from Chelsea as a youngster, and a return to Stamford Bridge could be seen as unfinished business for the midfielder.
John Terry, who has an academy role with the Blues, believes Rice would be an “incredible” addition for Chelsea and told Astro SuperSport: “I’m going to get in trouble here for what I say!
“You know what, Dec obviously loves Chelsea — I think everyone knows that. I think the rejection he had from Chelsea has really helped his career actually. What he’s done at West Ham is pretty much incredible. We saw in the FA Cup [against Kidderminster Harriers in February] when he came on and scored, and again grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.
“I think from Dec’s side of things, I think he’s given everything to West Ham.”
So — should he move — where next for Rice? Let’s take a look at the options available to the 23 year old.
Rice was released from the Chelsea youth system at 14 years old and was eventually picked up by West Ham. Indeed, it wasn’t the worst thing to happen, with the youngster becoming one of the most accomplished central midfielders in the Premier League on the opposite side of the capital.
A return to Chelsea would satisfy Rice’s desire to play at a higher level and likely elevate his game further, while his determination to prove Chelsea were wrong to let him go in the first place will serve as extra motivation. That route across London is a well-trodden path, with Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Glen Johnson making the move most recently, and Rice could be the next player to switch East to West.
Terry, who played with all three at Stamford Bridge, said: “Looking from the outside, unless West Ham go and make a big statement in the summer and go and spend £100million plus and say, ‘we want to keep Dec and we want to bring in top players like you’, then I think he’s got a decision to make.” Of course, if sanctions remain in place a return to Chelsea will not be possible.
A move north to Manchester United might be the more realistic option though, with the Old Trafford club severely lacking in midfield. Rice would be a significant upgrade on either Fred or Scott McTominay and, with Paul Pogba set to leave the club this summer, Rice could be tasked with running the centre of the pitch for United.
Of course, there are some significant stumbling blocks in the way of the transfer, not least that Manchester United have no manager for next season at present as Ralf Rangnick sees out the remainder of his interim contract until the summer. There’s no guarantee that whoever takes the reins at Old Trafford will think Rice is the right fit. It would be hard to argue that he wouldn’t improve the side though, and Rice himself is said to be open to the move.
Wildcard: Real Madrid (No Odds available at present)
One option for Rice could be a move abroad. The best option for him could be Real Madrid, who will be in the market for a centre midfielder in the near future. Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos are all over 30 and Los Blancos could do with players who are young enough to reinvigorate the midfield. Rice certainly fits that bill, and possesses enough quality to come straight into the starting line up at the Bernabéu.
He hasn’t indicated that a move out of England is in his plans, but he could join a long list of English players that have moved to Spain and excelled, with Gary Lineker, David Beckham, Steve McManaman and Kieran Trippier all winning trophies in the Spanish top division. It could even be argued that a move to the continent would add another dimension to Rice’s game.
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Will he stay at West Ham?
There is still a big chance that Rice could stay at London Stadium beyond this summer, but there is a sense his situation hinges on West Ham’s European qualification this season. The Hammers are into the last eight of the Europa League and know outright glory will secure them a Champions League berth. With that, the club would likely find negotiations easier and be able to lure bigger names to the East End.
Moyes doesn’t think Rice is bigger than the club however and has experience in selling a prize asset without taking a backwards step on the pitch.
“I sold Wayne Rooney and Everton got better. It doesn’t always mean that things don’t happen. We’ve said before that we’ve got no intention of selling,” reiterating the stance of the club that they won’t be actively looking to sell Rice this summer.
Rice himself has dropped perhaps the biggest hint that he’ll be at West Ham next season. Talking when collector his West Ham player of the year award he said, “We’ve proved that we can play in big European games and our fans and our stadium have shown we can handle those big European nights, and that’s what we want more of.”.