West Ham did themselves a huge favour with a battling 3-2 win over Chelsea on Wednesday night, strengthening their bid to stay in the Premier League and to therefore keep hold of Declan Rice as a result.

The west Londoners have long been linked with a move for the 21-year-old (Goal.com reported on the same back in May), and Frank Lampard will have seen at first hand what he’ll be buying should he follow up on any initial interest.

After such a wayward defensive performance from his team, the former Hammers academy graduate might well be tempted to go all out now to secure Rice’s services.

However, he could hit a stumbling block.

According to journalist Duncan Castles, speaking on The Transfer Window Podcast cited by the Daily Express, though West Ham would prefer not to sell the player, if they are forced to do so, for instance if they are relegated, the Hammers don’t want to sell to a London rival.

“I think they’re conscious of their supporters,” Castles noted, in reference to West Ham’s owners.

“I’m sure if they could encourage another Premier League club outside of London to bid for the player, they’d prefer to sell him there.

“It wouldn’t go down well should they lose Rice this summer. But, going down into a Championship that is going to be harder hit by Covid than the Premier League, certain pragmatic decisions will have to be made.

“They’ve spent a lot on that squad in recent years and pushed the wage bill up. So, the money will have to come in from somewhere.

“I think it’s intelligent on Frank Lampard’s part to target a player in danger of being relegated, and who is friends with people on the current Chelsea squad, and can have those voices in his ear.”

Given Rice’s friendship with Mason Mount, and his knowledge of the club having signed for West Ham from Chelsea, it’s entirely possible that the player will have the final say in what is already becoming a long drawn out saga.

This article first appeared on Caught Offside and was syndicated with permission.

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