Former West Ham United striker Carlton Cole believes it isn’t the “right time” for Hammers midfielder and Chelsea target Declan Rice to leave the club.
Rice has been linked with a move away from the London Stadium by numerous media outlets this summer. Manchester United and Chelsea are two clubs rumored to be interested in the 23-year-old.
Additionally, EUROSPORT reported earlier this month that Rice had turned down two contract offers from West Ham as well (his current contract expires in 2024). The Englishman reportedly wants to move to a club that will ply their trade in the UEFA Champions League next season.
This could put Chelsea in the driver’s seat as Manchester United will participate in the UEFA Europa League for the 2022-23 campaign.
Cole, who played 293 times for West Ham and also made 34 appearances for the Blues, believes the Hammers can’t let Rice leave this summer.
He told The Sun:
“Declan is obviously really important. Obviously, there’s speculation about his future here, there and everywhere. But right now I just don’t feel it’s the right time for him to be moving on.”
The former Blues striker further added:
“I think he’s at a club where they have expectations to push on and I think as long as he understands the project and he knows his place within the team. We can’t lose too many [players]. We’ve just lost Mark Noble and I think we’ve got a few others that we’ve lost now so we have to bolster and we can’t be letting our best players go at the moment.”
Rice made 50 appearances across competitions for the Hammers last season, scoring five goals and providing four assists. He played a key role as David Moyes’ side as the Hammers made it to the semifinals of the Europa League and finished seventh in the Premier League standings.
Carlton Cole thinks West Ham United can replace Declan Rice
While Cole seemed to reiterate that he would like to see Rice continue at West Ham, he believes the Hammers can cope should the midfielder depart.
The former Celtic forward said:
“If it does happen and someone comes in with an offer that we can’t refuse [for Rice], then it’s just the way it is. We’ll reshuffle the pack and nobody in that West Ham squad isn’t irreplaceable. You’ll always get a few diamonds in the rough and we have found a load of them.”
It is worth noting that Rice was initially part of Chelsea’s youth setup before moving to West Ham. He has since gone on to make 150 appearances for the Hammers while also winning 32 caps for England.