No regrets Rice left Chelsea academy for West Ham

Frank Lampard said Chelsea have no regrets over allowing Declan Rice to leave the club’s academy amid ongoing speculation the Blues could look to sign him back from West Ham in January.

ESPN reported on Oct. 16 that Chelsea would consider a mid-season move for Rice if the Hammers softened their stance over an £80 million price tag which proved prohibitive earlier in the summer.

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Rice left Chelsea’s academy aged 14 after seven years in the youth ranks but has since become one of the Premier League’s hottest prospects, making his senior England debut in March last year and becoming a regular in Gareth Southgate’s side this term.

But ahead of West Ham’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Monday, Lampard said: “He’s a fantastic player for West Ham and England, so fair play because his journey there after leaving Chelsea and going to West Ham is a good story to hear.

“There are lots of those stories for different reasons at whatever level and that shows a strength of character. In terms of from our end, I certainly wouldn’t use the word ‘regret.’ Our academy is one of the best in the world.

“You look at our first team now, the players we have produced here that are in and around the first-team squad, we’ve got so many. And it is not easy. It is not an exact science to pick and choose whatever players.

“The academy work brilliantly here and bring through a lot of players. Declan Rice, let’s give him personal credit for going and having a great start to his career that he’s had at West Ham.”

Lampard refused to be drawn on Chelsea’s spending plans after their £220m summer outlay.

“I don’t know about January, I’ll consider January when it’s here,” he added.

However, he did voice his disappointment at the Premier League shareholders opting against the introduction of five substitutes. The Premier League is the only top division in Europe not to have allowed five substitutes, although clubs voted in favour of increasing the number of players allowed on the bench from seven to nine.

“I don’t want to talk about it in terms of it being a blow,” Lampard said. “It’s just when we spoke about it as managers, the overriding factor whether they were for or against — I think there were differing factors to this — was that this is a case of player welfare, making sure we are looking after them and giving them the best opportunity to perform at an optimum level, not putting them at risk as such because of the uncertain times and the schedule.

“And that schedule gets tougher because for instance we play two games in two days over Christmas so it would have been really beneficial for player welfare. Normally in the modern day, player welfare or employee welfare comes out on top.

“I don’t think it quite has this time. But the decision is made and we just carry on.”

Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech returned to first-team training on Friday after suffering hamstring injuries and their availability will be assessed ahead of Monday’s game.

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