Chelsea told Declan Rice transfer could solve Jules Kounde problem amid contract standoff

Graeme Souness has declared that West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice, who has been linked with a move to Chelsea for some time, could thrive as a central defender in the years to come. The Blues were keen on adding to their defensive ranks during the summer transfer window, with Thomas Tuchel identifying Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde as his priority target.

The 22-year-old was understood to be eager to join Chelsea and reportedly agreed personal terms with the European champions last month.

However, the two clubs were unable to agree a fee, with Sevilla unwilling to settle for anything less than Kounde’s release clause of around £77million.

He stayed in Spain as a result, leaving Chelsea to wait until at least January to add to their back three.

It has been suggested that a move for Kounde could be revisited at the turn of the year, with the player said to be aggrieved over the failure of his proposed switch to Stamford Bridge.

Meanwhile, Rice is still understood to be a target for the Blues, who swept Tottenham aside in a comfortable away victory on Sunday afternoon.

Souness, who captained Liverpool during the early 1980s, has suggested that Chelsea may not need to sign Kounde if Rice can be tempted to join the club in January or next summer.

He told Sky Sports that West Ham’s star man could ultimately emerge as a world-class central defender in the near future, with his physicality and cultured range of passing already standing him in good stead to do so.

“He’s a seasoned pro already, he’s got great energy levels, he’s an athlete and he senses danger,” explained Souness.

“When it’s going forward and it’s about delivering cute passes, I think he’s a wee bit short on that. Will he get that? We’ll have to wait and see.


“I see him maybe ultimately being a defender. The modern central defender has to be good on the ball under pressure and deliver passes, he can certainly do that.

“In midfield I understand he’s learning that game in there. It’ll be a terrible waste if he wasn’t using what God gave him and that’s the tremendous athleticism.

“In terms of being that top, top player [in midfield] I’m not sure.”

It remains to be seen whether Chelsea will be able to land Rice before the start of next season, with West Ham eager to keep hold of their prized asset.


He has emerged as one of the Premier League’s finest deep-lying midfielders over the last few years and excelled for England at Euro 2020.

The London native has reportedly turned down a number of contract offers from the Hammers in recent months, suggesting that a Stamford Bridge switch could soon be engineered.

However, Chelsea are unlikely to be the only side in the hunt for Rice, with Manchester United also believed to be keen on a move for his services.

It has also been claimed that Manchester City have identified the 22-year-old, who will be out of contract in the summer of 2024, as Fernandinho’s long-term successor at the Etihad Stadium.

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