Declan Rice has offered no indication that a potential move to Chelsea is on his mind, with a West Ham star who is “loving life” in east London more concerned with becoming the next Yaya Toure or Patrick Vieira.
The versatile 21-year-old has seen a retracing of his steps to Stamford Bridge mooted six years after he left the Blues’ academy system as a teenager.
West Ham have offered him the opportunities that Chelsea believed would never come, with Rice going on to become a senior England international and Hammers captain.
Frank Lampard is said to be mulling over a bid to buy back into the ability of a player that the Blues allowed to slip their net, with another transfer window set to open in January.
Rice, though, is aware that he has everything he needs at the London Stadium and believes his previous snub from Chelsea has been a positive in his route to the top.
“I think that’s the making of me to be honest with you,” he told Sky Sports.
“I had to move to West Ham at 14, away from my family. I’m a family boy, love my mum and dad, live at home with them, and to leave them at 14 to play with people I don’t know from Monday to Friday, I think that shaped me into the person I am.
“I had to start being responsible for myself, but look, I’ve come here and flourished. I’ve had three managers that have really looked after me, I’m loving life here.”
Rice has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence at West Ham, with his ability to perform in a number of different positions being embraced.
It is those qualities that have him back on Chelsea’s radar, but a man who started out as a centre-half is eager to nail down a role in a holding midfield berth – allowing him to follow in the footsteps of Manchester City and Arsenal icons.
“I see this as my position, 100 per cent,” Rice said on operating in the engine room.
“I’ve played in midfield for the last three seasons and I think a lot of people get carried away with what they want me to do!
“My role is a holding midfielder and there’s not really any flair in that. I’m disciplined, I make sure I’m always available for the team, I’m always in position, I get my passes off quick, I intercept and I tackle. I think a lot of people want to see things like stepovers and I’ve got that in the locker, but that’s not my role!
“I can play at centre-half, but I’ve got much more to give and I think my confidence is growing in midfield. The more I start driving forward with the ball like I’ve done in recent games, the more I’ll grow into that position.
“I watched the top players like Yaya Toure and Patrick Vieira and every time they see a bit of space, they’d drive into it and look powerful and strong and as a holding midfielder that’s rare these days, so if I can keep adding that into my game, I can keep catching the eye.
“They, as well as [Roy] Keane and [Claude] Makelele, were wonderful footballers but they never overcomplicated things and knew what their games were and knew what their weaknesses were, and I do too.
“I think some fans are calling on social media for me to get the ball off Lukasz Fabianski and run the whole length of the pitch and score with the back of my head, but that’s not my job!
“My job is to protect the team, have good positional awareness, get on the ball, keep it simple and keep it ticking.
“I know what my strengths are and what to base my game around.”