Former Chelsea assistant manager Jody Morris has revealed Declan Rice was open to a return to Stamford Bridge in 2020, but the Blues declined to pull the trigger on a move.
Morris, a Cobham graduate who also worked as an academy manager, was named the assistant to Frank Lampard during his spell as permanent manager between 2019 and 2021.
Lampard’s desire to re-sign Rice, who was released from Chelsea as a 14-year-old, is common knowledge but Morris has now revealed just how close the Blues came to striking a deal for the midfielder.
“I messaged [Rice] when we were [at Chelsea] and said, ‘Would you come back?’,” Morris told the No Tippy Tappy Football podcast. “Because obviously, he was released from Chelsea as a 14-year-old. If you actually spoke to Dec, I don’t think that he would have thought that he should have been released. But there was quite a few of them that thought maybe he shouldn’t have been released.
“It’s probably the best thing for him. He’s gone on to amazing things at West Ham. But while he was there, going into the second season I was on at Lamps all the time going, ‘Dec would be unbelievable for us. We need more legs because [N’Golo] Kante hadn’t played for us a lot’. He’d only played about 40% of the time, he kept getting injured. And I said, ‘Would you like Dec?’ And Lamps said, ‘I don’t know, I haven’t really seen enough of him’.
“About a month later, he was like, ‘I’ve been all over Dec since we’ve been having a closer look’. I messaged Dec saying, ‘Would you come back?’. Otherwise, there’s no point Lamps going to have the conversations with anybody if Dec is still [not looking to leave]. And he went, ‘No, no, I’m a Chelsea fan, of course I would’. So that got put in motion and Lamps started speaking to him. And it was on.
“The upstairs at the club were speaking to his dad and talking about a few things. It was pushed behind a couple of other signings and didn’t get through. I think at the time they were quoting around £60m, £65m, so that would’ve been an absolute snip.”
The 2020 summer transfer window saw Chelsea spend £72m on Kai Havertz, who has since joined Rice at Arsenal, while the Blues also picked up Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell and Edouard Mendy for a further £119.5m. Hakim Ziyech’s £34m switch from Ajax, which had been agreed in the previous January, was also finalised.
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