England are fortunate to have a player of Declan Rice’s ability, according to Frank Lampard, who lamented missing out on signing the West Ham midfielder during his time at Chelsea.
Rice was a reported target for big-spending Chelsea throughout last year’s off-season, though Lampard ultimately did not get his man.
Instead, attacking talents Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech were brought in, while Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell bolstered the defence and Edouard Mendy arrived to replace Kepa Arrizabalaga as number one goalkeeper.
Despite their huge outlay, reports suggested Lampard was still eager to bring in Rice, who has been in excellent form for top-four challengers West Ham this season, though the England youngster is currently out injured.
Chelsea’s form dropped off over December and January, and fearing missing out on a place in the Champions League, the club dismissed Lampard, their record goalscorer, with Thomas Tuchel coming in.
Tuchel has made a fantastic start, going unbeaten in 14 games across all competitions until a shock 5-2 home reverse to Premier League strugglers West Brom last week.
In his first interview since his sacking, Lampard – who also confirmed he is looking to get back into management when the time is right – revealed his admiration for Rice.
“Now you see him in the England squad and quickly you don’t see an England team without Declan in it,” he said at a Q&A for the Willow Foundation ahead of the London Football Awards.
“We are fortunate to have him in England, West Ham are fortunate to have him. He’s a leader and it is clear that he’s destined for great things. I have probably given it away with how I spoke about him but I think it’s common knowledge that I was a big fan of his.
“It didn’t happen for various reasons, but we brought in a lot of players in the summer. But I was a big fan of him. For understandable reasons, West Ham know the player that they have on their hands.
“I don’t want Declan to be in an uncomfortable position through this because all I see from him is absolute performance and desire to play for West Ham. They gave him the chance there and the choice will be Declan’s as the years go ahead, but his performances are great to watch.”
WHAT WOULD RICE HAVE BROUGHT TO CHELSEA?
Rice has started 32 games in all competitions for West Ham this term, not always playing in midfield, as David Moyes has utilised his versatile qualities to drop the 22-year-old into defence.
Tomas Soucek is the only West Ham midfielder to have played more games, while only Mason Mount (35) has made more starts when it comes to Chelsea midfielders.
Rice is in West Ham’s team to disrupt play and protect the defence, meaning it is no surprise to see his goal tally stand at just one, which was a penalty against Sheffield United.
However, he has also shown creativity in West Ham’s midfield, with his total of 23 chances created – 21 in the Premier League – putting him just ahead of Manuel Lanzini (22) and Pablo Fornals (21) though his numbers fall way behind Chelsea leader Mount (85).
Rice also ranks highest among West Ham midfielders for dribbles completed, with his 28 equalling the number of successful take-ons that Havertz has attempted.
He has attempted 297 passes more than fellow Hammers midfielder Soucek, with an impressive accuracy of 88.07 per cent, while he has attempted more passes (838) in the opposition half than his own (730).
But it is defensively where Rice really comes to the fore, and it is such a role that Lampard likely wished the former Blues academy player to fulfil.
Of Chelsea and West Ham midfielders, only N’Golo Kante (63) has made more interceptions than the 59 managed by Rice, who tops the Opta charts for ball recoveries (239) when analysing both teams, while only Mount and Kante have attempted more tackles.
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