Frank Lampard’s sacking from Chelsea could benefit Manchester United in the summer transfer window.
Lampard’s dismissal as Chelsea boss opens up the path for United to pursue Declan Rice’s signature from West Ham.
The Athletic claimed Lampard repeatedly pushed to sign Rice, but clashed with the Chelsea hierarchy, who did not like the optics of paying big money for a player the club released as a teenager. The Mirror had claimed last month that the England international favoured a move to Chelsea, where his dad is a season ticket holder.
United’s chances have improved
United are reported to be long term admirers of the West Ham midfielder. ESPN claimed just last week that United will step up pursuit of Rice at the end of the season.
Chelsea were United’s biggest competitors, and Lampard’s exit should take them out of the race, with his desire to sign Rice cited as one the reasons which led to tension with the board.
It is worth noting that Rice is under contract with West Ham until 2024, with an option to extend to 2025. The Hammers are not in a relegation battle, unlike last year, and they currently sit seventh in the table.
The path is not quite clear, with 90 Min claiming City and Liverpool are both monitoring Rice.
The Lingard factor
West Ham are claimed to be frontrunners to sign Jesse Lingard on loan, The Evening Standard report. If this move goes ahead, and pans out well, this could lead to a permanent deal in the summer.
Potentially this could knock the price of signing Declan Rice down, and also develop relations with West Ham’s board, who are in a tricky position. Losing Rice would reflect badly on them with their fans, but getting a player back in a cash plus swap deal might soften the blow, if Lingard does his part and impresses over the next few months.
Rice’s fluctuating price tag
How much Declan Rice would cost will influence whether United move or not. Last summer United were priced out of a deal for Jack Grealish by Aston Villa. Rice is in a similar position as the star man in a mid-ranked side who has come through the academy.
ESPN report West Ham hope a £70 million fee would be enough to put clubs off. And it might.
However, a report from 90 Min last week claimed the Hammers are counting the financial cost of the pandemic and might be forced to consider bids of around £50 million. For this price he becomes more tempting for United.
Euro 2021 is the wildcard which could end up driving up Rice’s price tag if he has a strong tournament, and if he doesn’t fare well, United’s interest may wane anyway as a result.
Is Rice the right player?
United need a defensive midfielder to succeed Nemanja Matic. Rice ticks several boxes.
He is just 22, already an England international regular, and is Premier League proven, with 118 games in the top flight under his belt already.
The problem sits with the price tag. For £50 million, Rice represents a young player who is very talented and worth gambling on, like Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
For a fee towards £70 million, you expect perfection. Every error would be scrutinised, and Rice would need to be able to improve United from the first minute he arrives.
Paying £70 million for Rice throws up a question over scouting. Yes, United need a defensive midfielder, but surely money can be invested more smartly. Could a player not be found to do a similar role for half the price, like AC Milan’s Ismael Bennacer, even if he lacks Premier League experience? Or a cheaper gamble on Dutchman Teun Koopmeiners?
For the same fee, United may have a chance of signing Wilfred Ndidi from Leicester. Might he be a superior option? If United pay a premium for Rice, the club have to be absolutely certain he will be a success.
United go up against him in a fortnight’s time in the FA Cup fifth round at Old Trafford, before a league game at home in March.
Frank Lampard’s sacking from Chelsea certainly improves United’s chances of landing Declan Rice. But the same questions exist as to whether he is the club’s best option, and whether he can be landed for a reasonable fee.
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