David Moyes recently reaffirmed his belief that Rice is worth more than £100m, having insisted last summer that he would be “cheap” at such a price. That led to much scoffing, but Moyes’ job is to look after the interests of West Ham - who will want to extract the biggest fee possible if they choose to cash in on their prized asset.
Manchester City spent three figures on Jack Grealish in August, setting a new British record transfer fee in the process.
They would not be afraid to spend a similar sum on the right player next summer, and their recent acquisition of Julian Alvarez suggests the Premier League champions will not renew their interest in Harry Kane and that potentially frees up funds for other areas of the squad.
Fernandinho is expected to leave the Etihad Stadium at the end of the campaign, and Guardiola will probably want another body alongside Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan in the midfield ranks. The City boss described Rice as an “exceptional player” in November, which makes odds of 11/2 available on Betfair look tempting.
Like Chelsea, Manchester United have been linked with Rice for two or three summers. The Red Devils splashed the cash ahead of the current campaign, bolstering an already talented squad by bringing in Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.
Despite their expenditure United have failed to mount a Premier League title tilt this term. Most people in football expect them to have another busy summer this year, particularly as a new manager will want to put his own stamp on the team.
Central midfield has been identified as a weak point in the current United squad, and Paul Pogba’s probable departure on a free transfer will only heighten the need for reinforcements in that part of the pitch.
Rice has the personality to thrive in the high-pressure environment that is Old Trafford, although United arguably require a holding player more than a box-to-box midfielder like the England international.
Even so, odds of 15/2 on Paddy Power are generous. Rice would instantly improve United, who in turn would be able to meet West Ham’s demands and this looks like a good value bet.
Liverpool can be backed at 10/1 to sign Rice before the transfer window closes at the start of September. Jurgen Klopp no doubt admires the 23-year-old, whose ball-carrying ability and increasingly all-action style would make him a good fit for this Liverpool team.
However, it is hard to see the Reds paying £100m for anyone, let alone a player who has never appeared in the Champions League.
Newcastle’s chances of landing Rice are 14/1 with UK bookmakers; if anything, that price does not feel long enough.
The Magpies are ambitious and would be able to afford a three-figure transfer fee, but at the moment West Ham to Newcastle is a step down. Rice will only leave the London Stadium to play for a club capable of winning the biggest trophies immediately.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Rice is still a West Ham player by the end of next season.
He is under contract with his current employers until 2024, and the club has the option to extend his deal for another 12 months. Rice would still be in demand if West Ham opted to sell him next year rather than this; for now at least, the power lies with the club.
West Ham may well be in the Champions League next season. They occupy fourth spot in the Premier League at the time of writing, albeit having played more games than Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham.
If the Hammers were to secure a top-four finish, Rice would probably stick around to represent them in Europe’s foremost club competition. An exit this summer is far from inevitable.