It has been a season to remember for West Ham’s Declan Rice. After his influential performances helped England reach the finals of the European Championship, he has also led the Hammers from the front to a Europa League semi-final and has kept the club in the hunt to qualify for Europe for the second time in a row.
The 23-year-old grew into one of the best young midfielders in Europe this season while also remaining a local hero and inspiration to many local West Ham fans. In all competitions this season, the defensive midfielder has produced 5 goals and 4 assists for the Hammers while also sporting the armband being the vice-captain of the team despite making his debut for the senior team only in 2017.
Since then, Rice’s prominence in the West Ham team has only risen gradually with the player finishing as runner-up for the 2017/18 Hammer of the Year award behind Marko Arnautović. But it took him just two years to win the award as he was the recipient of the club POTY for the 2019/20 season. For his performances from that season, Rice was also on the shortlist for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
Having improved his game further since then, Rice was awarded the Hammer of the Year trophy once again on Monday for his stellar play, leadership and overall service to the badge this season. The Englishman looked thrilled to receive the award from footage of the annual Hammers event. “To win this award again, it feels very special. This season’s been remarkable,” stated Rice during his acceptance speech.
While Hammers supporters were excited to see Rice pick up the deserved award, they also had a reason to worry as Rice went on to address questions from the presenter that enquired about his presence at the club next season. When quizzed on continuing with West Ham, the Englishman said yes but was quick to initially laugh the probing question off while the crowd in front of the stage erupted with screams asking the player to stay.
With his strong performances in the middle of the park over the years and given his age, Rice has been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea recently. The former has been interested in the player’s profile for a while and are in desperate need of a CDM. Chelsea shares a former connection with the player who began his youth career at the club and would love to bring him back to Stamford Bridge.
In this context, Rice hinted at uncertainty around his future but at the same time took the moment to emphasize his eternal love for West Ham. “But as I said there’s so much speculation but you can see every time, I put on that shirt you can see how much this club means to me,” responded Rice to the question from the presenter.
While it remains of no doubt that the Englishman does and will always have West Ham in his heart, this sidesteps at the question has surely intensified interest in a potential departure in the summer.