Declan Rice was released by Chelsea in 2013, at age 14. In 2020, at age 21, he was first seriously linked with a return, right in the middle of our (partially transfer ban-enforced) youth revolution.
It seemed like an obvious outcome. He would rejoin his boyhood club, reunite with his childhood friends (including BFF Mason Mount), and help return Chelsea to the top of the Premier League. A wonderful homecoming story, ten years in the making. And who says football romanticism is dead!?
In the three years since those first links, stories of his impending return were frequent rumor mill fodder, adding to the sense of inevitability. Chelsea head coaches Frank Lampard, Thomas Tuchel, and Graham Potter all rated him — especially Super Frank — and it sure seemed like the reunion was just a matter of time, and money. And we had both.
And then we woke up this weekend to find Declan joining Arsenal in a club-record £100m deal, which could make him the most expensive British national in league history if the £5m add-ons are hit as well (eclipsing Jack Grealish’s £100m move to Manchester City from Aston Villa). Worth it? Probably.
The format and content (briefings) of these are always the same.— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) July 15, 2023
- Club wanted him before he was conceived.
- Glowing recommendations from his Year 4 teacher.
- Went to Nandos with the manager and DoF.
- Bought a Twix for every fan at old club to say goodbye in the right way. https://t.co/6Hth5uAlYo
To make things even weirder to our own selves from three years ago, Mason Mount is also no longer a Blue. Hollywood ending this was not ... though the writers are on strike after all.
So what happened?
As with most such things, it can’t really be put down to a single point of failure. The Telegraph’s rundown concludes that it was a matter of “timing” more than anything else — Arsenal trending up and with Champions League football; Chelsea trending down and without; two years left on his contract; winning a trophy as a final act at West Ham; etc — though that all may be a bit too circumstantial. As in Mount’s case, I’m sure there are many reasons below the surface that we will never be privy to, and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. If there truly was a will, there surely would’ve been a way. So we’ll just have to take the situation as is.
We’ll just have to trust that we do have a plan as well. It doesn’t involve Rice, and it doesn’t involve Mount. But it does involve Chelsea, and that’s the only thing that counts.