ESPN reported on July 7 that the Hammers were determined to keep Rice this summer despite the Blues registering their interest in the 21-year-old, and that position never changed throughout the summer window.
Chelsea chose not to make any formal bid for Rice, with West Ham demanding around £80m. They instead opted to commit £220m on strengthening other areas of their squad.
However, sources said Rice remains a top target for Frank Lampard and Chelsea would be willing to make a move in January if conditions allow.
A deal is more likely next summer but West Ham’s financial concerns are complicated. They are about to commit around £30m to sign Said Benrahma from Championship side Brentford but they are also exploring short-term funding options.
Rice has a contract until 2024 and the player has not agitated to leave but the club may choose to cash in should wider circumstances create fresh pressures.
Equally, Lampard will need to make space in his squad. Rice is used by West Ham and England as a defensive midfielder but Chelsea are attracted by his versatility to play at centre-back.
The Blues kept midfielders Jorginho and N’Golo Kante, in addition to centre-backs Fikayo Tomori and Antonio Rudiger, in the transfer window. At least one of those players would have to leave before Rice could be acquired but regardless, they remain actively on the case. — James Olley
What does the future then hold for Kante?The France international has over two years left on his contract at Chelsea but there are indications that this could be his last season at the club. While he is happy in London and playing in the Premier League, the 29-year-old does not feel he is part of the future plans at Stamford Bridge, sources have told ESPN.
Kante is also aware of aforementioned rumoured arrival of Rice. It was clear to Kante that Chelsea were to bring back former academy product Rice, who also counts Mason Mount as his best friend.
It almost felt at times that Chelsea were waiting for an offer for Kante to let him go and replace him with Rice. Inter Milan never bid for the Frenchman and as such, he remains happy to stay at Chelsea. But even in their communication, the London club and Lampard were never too clear about Kante.
Kante also didn’t take well that Lampard denied his request to take a day off training to attend one of his best friends’ wedding. Chelsea deny the story but French sources have confirmed it to ESPN — while Kante himself could have denied it while on international duty with Les Bleus last week but chose not to.
As amicable as the former Leicester City star is, he also has a strong personality. However, he will give his absolute best all season for Lampard and Chelsea as he has done since arriving in 2016. But next summer might be a totally different dynamic around him than in comparison to the last transfer window.