The former Hammers striker says the versatile England international would be an asset for any team in the Premier League as transfer talk builds
Declan Rice would be an upgrade on Fred and Scott McTominay for Manchester United, says John Hartson, with Manchester City also expected to be keen on a West Ham midfielder that has been heavily linked with Chelsea.
At 21 years of age, an England international who has taken on captaincy duties at the London Stadium when Mark Noble misses out continues to see his stock rise.
Chelsea are not Rice’s only suitors, though, and former Hammers striker Hartson believes Manchester rivals United and City could do worse than invest heavily in a proven performer ready to fill a holding role in their respective engine rooms.
He told Stadium Astro: “I think he’s better than Fred, I think he’s better than McTominay.
“[Bruno] Fernandes is outstanding, he’s been Manchester United’s best player in the last 12 months since they bought him. [Paul] Pogba, we’re not quite sure what Pogba is going to turn up – some weeks he’s great, others he is languishing and doesn’t look up to it. I think he would be a great signing for them.
“Man City? Rodri, Fernandinho – I’m not sure Rodri is the player we expected him to be, his performances haven’t been at the level.
“I think he walks into those teams. I think Pep Guardiola and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would love a Declan Rice. I think he is better than those players.”
Hartson added: “West Ham won’t want to lose one of their best players, probably their best player – their biggest asset. West Ham have aspirations this season of trying to get into that top six to seven.
“I think Declan Rice would get into any side in the Premier League, and he would be an asset in that side. I think he’s an outstanding midfield player – he keeps the ball, he’s a great athlete, he’s brave in and out of possession. Alright, he’s not you’re blistering goalscorer, like a Frank Lampard was, but I do believe he’s the current England central midfield player.
“I think the favourites to sign him would be Chelsea. Frank Lampard is a huge admirer.
“What would he be worth? You would have to pay at least £80m for him. That is an extreme amount of money, but these teams have got the funds to buy him.”
While Chelsea are considered to lead the chase for Rice’s signature, former Blues goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer is not convinced that Lampard needs to be investing heavily in the youngster during the winter window of 2021.
He has said: “There is no doubting the guy is a really good player. Is he a priority for Chelsea in January? I don’t think so.
“I don’t really see why Chelsea would need to go and spend that little bit more to try and get someone in January – particularly someone like Declan Rice.
“He’s very good but would he add to Chelsea’s squad? Of course he will add, but is he a necessity in January? I don’t think so.”