Antonio Conte leaves Tottenham by mutual consentMar 27 | 1 min read
West Ham vs Chelsea: "The clock is ticking on his career" - Joe Cole on Declan Rice's future as in-demand Hammers skipper prepares to face Chelsea
Declan Rice's West Ham face Chelsea this Saturday lunchtime at the London Stadium exclusively live on BT Sport.
Declan Rice will be on the radar of every club in Europe except Real Madrid, according to former West Ham midfielder Joe Cole as the England star looks set to leave east London.
Rice spoke openly about his desire to join a team who play Champions League football while away on World Cup duty in Qatar and with his contract up at the end of next season, could make a big-money in the summer window.
Despite having just 18 months left on his West Ham deal, Hammers boss David Moyes insists should Rice leave it would be for a price tag that would "blow the British transfer record fee out of the water".
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It was some claim from the West Ham manager considering Saturday's opponents Chelsea just set a new record fee spent for a Premier League club with the arrival of Enzo Fernandez for £107million from Benfica.
But should Rice depart the London Stadium then BT Sport pundit Cole - who himself made the move away from West Ham to Chelsea back in 2003 - believes the very best teams in Europe would be after his signature.
"Every club in Europe will be looking at Declan because of what he brings to the team," Cole told BTSport.com in an exclusive interview.
"The only club I’d probably rule out is maybe Real Madrid because of [Toni] Kroos, [Luka] Modric, [Federico] Valverde, [Aurelien] Tchouameni and [Eduardo] Camavinga... but every other club needs a midfielder and Rice is as good as anyone."
"I've been in Rice's shoes," Cole, who left his boyhood club West Ham for £6.6m in the summer of 2003 and went on to win six major trophies with Chelsea, added.
"You're fighting, you're fighting and you're fighting for your club and you want to win trophies and then you speak to your mates in the England squad and it can be frustrating.
"I'm sure Declan would love West Ham to be challenging for the Champions League places and for there to be a new plan with a new owner, but he's got a decision to make at the end of the season."
Cole knows Rice personally and vouches that despite his desire to leave, he'll give his all for West Ham until the end of the campaign.
"He's a great character so he will always fight for his team," Cole said. "He loves West Ham but the clock is ticking on his career and he wants to play at the highest level and to compete for trophies.
"But he's a committed, passionate lad who will be fighting tooth-and-nail for West Ham until the summer when he'll sit down with his representatives, his family and the club and try to come to a solution that's suitable for everyone."
The 24-year-old has made 224 appearances for the Hammers since making his debut in 2017 and has spent his entire professional career at West Ham who he now captains.
Rice was previously on Chelsea's books before being released by the west Londoners in 2014 as a 14-year-old and the Blues have been touted as a possible next destination for the England man.
This, in spite of a mammoth period of spending in which Chelsea have splashed out in excess of £600m under the ownership of Todd Boehly.
Fernandez, the Argentine midfielder whose transfer record fee Rice would be breaking accoring to Moyes, would appear an obvious obstacle to a Chelsea move for Rice.
Yet Chelsea have recruited in positions where they are already well stacked - in attack and on the wings for example with the arrivals of Mykhailo Mudryk, Noni Madueke, Joao Felix, David Datro Fofana this winter to add to the purchase of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Raheem Sterling only last summer.
The flood of attacking arrivals join Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic, Armando Broja and Mason Mount in the squad making for quite the list of attacking talent.
And Cole believes there will continue to be a period of upheaval at Stamford Bridge in the next two windows as Chelsea look to clear out an extremely bloated squad.
"Graham Potter's first job will be to get some kind of fluidity going and get players up to speed with what he wants and on board with what's expected and what he's trying to do," Cole said.
"The players [who are on the bench] have got to be professional and they'll have known before they came that there'd be huge challenges to make the team...
"Those players will have to take a lot of responsbility [for their futures] and if they're not happy, there will be the opportunity to leave.
"In the next two windows there'll be a big shift of players leaving as well but Chelsea have a strong group - with Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta, Reeces James, Mount - so they'll make sure the principles remain and I think the squad can stay happy."
Mudryk's arrival was one of the more eye-catching transfers in recent Premier League history after Chelsea pipped London rivals Arsenal to the Ukrainian's signature after the Gunners had appeared in pole position to sign him from Shakhtar Donetsk.
And after just two appearances in the blue of Chelsea, Cole has seen enough of the 22-year-old to tell him the £89m man will be a success in west London.
"He’s going to be a top player for Chelsea," Cole said of Mudryk. "He looks a fantastic final third player who can beat a man, excite the crowd and has great feet.
"He reminds me of Arjen Robben in the way he drives past players in short bursts and makes the right decisions in the final third. I think he's going to get better and better so Chelsea have got him at the right time.
"He just needs to settle. It's a big jump coming from Ukraine to the Premier League so they'll need to give him some time but I'm really excited about him once he learns to play under Potter."
You can watch Mudryk's Chelsea against Rice's West Ham this Saturday lunchtime in a Premier League clash exclusively live on BT Sport.