‘Rice would reach another level with better players’ – Cresswell reacts to Chelsea transfer talk

Declan Rice continues to generate talk of a big-money move to Chelsea being made, and West Ham team-mate Aaron Cresswell admits the England international would reach “another level with better players around him”.

The versatile 21-year-old was released by the Blues as a youngster as they saw no path for him through to their first team.

A return to familiar surroundings is, however, being mooted for Rice after proving himself to be deserving of a place among the Premier League elite.

He has looked assured in defensive and midfield berths for West Ham, allowing him to switch senior international allegiance from the Republic of Ireland to England along the way.

Chelsea are looking to splash the cash this summer, with deals for Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech already wrapped up, and it may be that they table an offer for Rice at some stage.

West Ham may find it hard to resist advances from afar, especially as they remain locked in a relegation battle at present, but will be reluctant to part with any prized assets.

Cresswell hopes that the Hammers can keep Rice on their books, but concedes that a step up the ladder would aid the ongoing development of a hot prospect.

He told talkSPORT of Rice: “He’s close to 100 Premier League games already, and I’m not just saying that because he’s a West Ham player and a good mate of mine, but I really do believe he’s one of the top talents in the country.

“I wouldn’t like to see him leave, but if he were to ever leave he would become another level with better players around him.

“He’s come in at centre-back over the last couple of games due to injuries we’ve had and he can play either. It’s a great option he’s got but in terms of ability-wise, he’s a fantastic player.”

West Ham’s next outing is set to see them play host to Chelsea on Wednesday.

The Blues have been in fine form since the Premier League restart, cementing their standing inside the top four, but the Hammers are desperate for points and Cresswell is hoping to deliver derby delight for those at London Stadium.

He added: “As a team, as I’ve mentioned before, the kind of luck against Tottenham didn’t go our way and get the break we needed.

“But I’m confident we are going to stay up, for sure. It’s down to us now as players and as a team to make sure that happens.

“We are fully focused and fully confident that will happen.”