West Ham United captain Declan Rice remains top of Chelsea’s wanted list in 2023, 90min understands.
The England international has long been linked with a move away from the Hammers and has not been short of suitors - Chelsea the side most heavily linked with Rice over the past 12 to 18 months.
90min revealed in June that one of Todd Boehly’s first pieces of business was to talk to West Ham about Rice, who was released by Chelsea as a youngster before kick-starting his career in east London, but the Blues' billionaire owner was given short shrift and told that the 23-year-old was not for sale.
Despite his advances being rejected by West Ham, Boehly and Chelsea’s hierarchy remain huge fans of Rice, and one of his principal remits at Stamford Bridge is to try and lure the world's best young players to the club - a stance emphasised by the desire to conclude early deals for RB Leipzig duo Christopher Nkunku and Josko Gvardiol.
Hammers boss David Moyes stated over the summer that Rice's price tag would be in excess of £120m, but insisted that the club had no intention of letting him go despite heavy speculation over his future.
Indeed, West Ham’s focus this summer was to build a side capable of challenging for regular top-six finishes, and they invested heavily in the likes of Gianluca Scamacca, Italy's starting striker, and playmaker Lucas Paqueta, who arrived for a club-record fee in excess of £50m and is expected to start for Brazil at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
But West Ham's summer optimism has been dampened by a disappointing start to the season, and their lowly league position will do little to convince Rice that he can fulfil his trophy winning ambitions at the club.
Sources have told 90min that, at this stage, Rice is expecting to leave the club next summer in order to further his career, with Chelsea seen as the frontrunners to sign him.
However, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United have all previously spoken with West Ham about Rice, and they could yet make moves of their own if they feel a deal is there to be done.
Rice's current contract at London Stadium has less than two years to run, though West Ham have the option to extend by a year and remain hopeful that he may yet commit his future.