Chelsea are reportedly set to launch a move for West Ham United star Declan Rice as they look to strengthen their defence ahead of next season.

According to a report from The Athletic, Chelsea are set to raid local rivals West Ham United in the summer, for England international Declan Rice.

The 21-year-old started out at the Chelsea youth academy before switching to the West Ham youth setup in 2015. Having risen through the ranks, Rice broke into the first-team in 2017 under then-manager Slaven Bilic and has never looked back.

While Rice started out as a centre-back in his first full season with the Hammers’ senior team (2017/18), he was moved into the defensive midfield role in the subsequent campaign. And over the past two years, he has grown into one of the best young holding midfielders in Europe, making the position his own for club and country.

However, Chelsea are looking at the 21-year-old as a potential target to bolster their defensive ranks. Chelsea, under new boss Frank Lampard, have made a lot of progress. Although, defensively they remain suspect, something that the club needs to address ahead of next season.

The Blues currently have Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger as the first-choice centre-back pairing. Fikayo Tomori and Kurt Zouma are the backup options, while captain Cesar Azpilicueta can also fill in if need be. Chelsea, though, are ready to offload Zouma amid interest from Everton, opening up a place in the squad for a new defender.

On his way back to Chelsea? (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

On his way back to Chelsea? (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Rice, to that end, would be a viable option for the Blues. While he has played as a No.6 for the majority of his senior career, he had been moved back into the central defensive role by West Ham boss David Moyes against Wolves last month. And the youngster looked very much at home in the position.

When asked about Chelsea’s interest in the 21-year-old prior to their game against West Ham earlier this week, Lampard had said: “Declan Rice is a good player, I’ve known him for a long time, he was in Chelsea’s academy, but there’s no talk.”

The Chelsea boss may be playing it coy, but the wheels are in motion behind the scenes to try and swoop Rice away from West Ham. The report also adds that apart from Rice, Chelsea are also considering Kalidou Koulibaly and Jerome Boateng to bolster their defensive ranks

However, given the Englishman’s age and versatility, coupled with his proven pedigree in England, he might prove to be the better bet for Chelsea. Rice has still four years left on his contract with the Hammers, with the club retaining the option of extending it by another year. So, they will demand a significant transfer fee for their prized asset.

It will be interesting to see if Chelsea’s interest in their former academy man turns into something substantial. Considering the ambition they have already shown in the market, with the signings of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, a move for Rice could very well happen before next season.

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