Chelsea might well have been handed encouragement in their pursuit of Declan Rice with the West Ham United man having changed his opinion on a potential move.
The Blues have been strongly linked with a swoop for the Hammers’ midfielder as Thomas Tuchel aims to strengthen his squad ahead of the 2021/22 season.
Previously, the outlook from the Hammers was that the midfielder was not for sale for any fee as David Moyes’ men embark on a European campaign having finished sixth in the Premier League last season.
Even Rice himself has regularly batted away any questions on his future, insisting he was content at the London Stadium amid rumours of a move to Chelsea.
Speaking in 2019, he said: “I’m happy. I’m playing week in, week out. I have a special connection with the fans. It’s unbelievable [the London Stadium].
“I love every minute of being at West Ham. Being compared to players, being linked to other teams, I don’t really take any of it in, to be honest.
“If you think about it too much you get caught up in it. I’m only 20, you’ve got your whole career ahead of you.
“I’m just focused on playing for West Ham and playing with a smile on my face and enjoying it.”
Rice has since gone on to become a key player for the Hammers and England, with his opinion on a move away having altered.
According to EuroSport, the 22-year-old is now increasingly open to leaving West Ham and is interested in pursuing a move.
As long-term admirers of the player under both former boss Frank Lampard and current head coach Thomas Tuchel, that news could potentially hand Chelsea considerable encouragement as they aim to seal a deal.
It remains to be seen whether his current employers will be tempted to sell but as it stands, Rice is valued at £58.5m by transfermarkt with three years remaining on his contract.