Former West Ham United striker Tony Cottee believes the Hammers should offer Declan Rice a bumper new contract and line him up to be the club's next captain in a bid to fend off interest from Chelsea.
Blues boss Frank Lampard is a big fan of Rice and the England international has been heavily linked with a return to the club which released him as a 14-year-old.
Rice is currently the Hammers' vice-captain and signed a new long-term contract back in 2018 which is set to run until 2024 and contains the option of a further tear.
However, Cottee believes West Ham need to tie him down to a new deal in January along with manager David Moyes.
Speaking to the Sun, Cottee said: "As far as I’m concerned the only two signings to be bothered about are David Moyes and Declan.
"I’m pretty sure that even now, with his elevated status, Dec will not be earning the same kind of money as the top men in the squad.
"But he’s their most valuable player and in time will become the next captain after Mark Noble.
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"I know he signed a five-year deal not so long ago but get him tied down and up there with the bigger earners and make him a bedrock of the future team.
"We all know other teams are interested. West Ham should be acting to secure Declan, so he is not allowed to drift into the last two years of his contract and possibly leave on a free transfer."
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Cottee also praised the work Moyes has done, adding: "Moyes is building a team. I like what he is doing, he has proven to be a good fit.
"West Ham should be moving slowly and steadily in one direction, upwards. The yo-yoing needs to stop. By the end of the 2020s, West Ham needs to be established as a top-ten club.
"I hope the board can see the positive effect Moyes is having on this."
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