Declan Rice Plays Down Manchester United, Manchester City Transfer Rumours

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22: Declan Rice of England looks on during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group A qualifying match between England and Czech Republic at Wembley Stadium on March 22, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)
Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice has played down speculation linking him with moves to Manchester United and Manchester City, saying he's happy to be playing regular minutes at his current club.

The 20-year-old spoke to BT Sport (h/t Manchester Evening News' Josh Challies) and said he's trying to ignore all of the speculation:

"I'm happy. I'm playing week in week out. I have a special connection with the fans. It's unbelievable [the London Stadium]. I love every minute of being at West Ham.

"Being compared to players, being linked to other teams, I don't really take any of it in to be honest. If you think about it too much you get caught up in it.

"I'm only 20, you've got your whole career ahead of you. I'm just focused on playing for West Ham and playing with a smile on my face and enjoying it."

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 30:  Declan Rice of West Ham United runs with the ball under pressure from Gylfi Sigurdsson of Everton during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Everton FC at London Stadium on March 30, 2019 in London, United Kin
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

According to Challies, the Citizens see Rice as a natural heir to Fernandinho, while United are also keeping an eye on the England international. The Daily Mail (h/t TalkSport's Billy Hawkins) added Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur to the list of suitors.

The youngster has enjoyed a breakout campaign that resulted in a first cap for England during the most recent international break. He stands out for his simple yet effective style of play:

Sam Inkersole @Sam_InkersoleTM

Declan Rice on full England debut did what Declan Rice does week in, week out for West Ham. Blocked counter attacks, won the ball quickly, kept it simple and forward with his passing. Quietly effective. Very solid first start for the Three Lions. https://t.co/hioJxSD72a

Rice's rapid progression and solid all-round skill set make him a top target for England's best clubs, but the midfielder has yet to give any indication he plans on leaving the Hammers anytime soon. He also signed a new deal in December:

Declan Rice @_DeclanRice

special moment for me & my family. Delighted to have signed a contract extension with @WestHamUtd now to keep pushing & improving❤️⚒. #RICE2024 #COYI https://t.co/aJJn0mm6u3

The long-term commitment gives West Ham all leverage in exit talks and is a strong indication Rice wishes to continue his career in east London for the foreseeable future.

West Ham have a historic reputation for developing talent and have so far done a tremendous job with their latest starlet. Jamie Redknapp pointed out how West Ham have handled him well in the last year:

MailOnline Sport @MailSport

JAMIE REDKNAPP: Eight months ago he was about to ask West Ham United for a loan... now Declan Rice is playing for England https://t.co/mA8aCEQG6B https://t.co/ipCjRLVYvN

Rice knows all too well how difficult it can be to make it at a top club; he spent the bulk of his youth career with Chelsea, where he was released in 2014.

At the age of 20, he still has tons of room for improvement, and regular minutes at the Premier League level can only help. He finds himself in a perfect situation at West Ham, and more time at his current club can only be a good thing while he tries to establish himself as a regular for the Three Lions.

That won't stop the Premier League's giants from trying their luck, but Rice has time on his side.