Frank Lampard has teased Chelsea fans after discussing the ‘journey’ of former Blues youth team player Declan Rice, amid persistent rumours that the West Ham man is destined to return to Stamford Bridge.
Rice was part of the Blues academy from the age of seven, alongside the likes of current first-team stars Reece James and Mason Mount, before he was released in 2014, the midfielder going on to sign for London rivals West Ham.
The current England international made his debut on the final day of the 2016/17 season as a substitute, before developing into a vital player for the Hammers and a mainstay in the first-team set-up, with the 21-year-old currently captaining the team with club captain Mark Noble out of the side.
Such impressive performances at the heart of the midfield at the London Stadium have not only seen him become a key member of Gareth Southgate’s squad, but has also led to potential rumours of a move to a ‘big six’ club, with a return to Chelsea mooted over the summer.
Despite the versatile midfielder not making any such move yet, there is continued speculation that he will join Lampard’s side in the near future. While the current Blues boss has never confirmed his club’s interest in the player, he was full of praise for Rice’s development thus far, while also shutting down any suggestions that the club may regret letting him leave as a youngster.
‘He is a fantastic player for West Ham and England so fair play to him, because his journey there after leaving Chelsea and going to West Ham is a good story to hear,’ Lampard told chelseafc.com.
‘That shows a strength of character, and from our end, I certainly wouldn’t use the word regret. Our Academy is one of the best in the world and if you look at our first team now and the players we have produced who are in or around the first team squad, we have so many. And it is not easy, it is not an exact science to choose players.
‘The Academy work brilliantly here and bring through a lot of players. Declan Rice has to give himself personal credit for having the great start to his career he has had at West Ham.’
Lampard will Rice up close on Monday when West Ham travel to Stamford Bridge to face their London rivals.