Once again, there is plenty of talk about Declan Rice’s future at West Ham United.

The Times report that Chelsea are keen on the England international and want him to play at centre half.

We don’t doubt that every Hammers fan wants him to stay and we’ve got three reasons why he must be kept at all costs…

The three immense talents who can fire Steven Gerrard's Rangers to 55

The three immense talents who can fire Steven Gerrard's Rangers to 55

He was outstanding last season

We’re not talking about a talented player who could be doing better here. Rice was fantastic for West Ham all season long.

Michael Antonio might have got the headlines for his late flurry of goals to keep West Ham safe, but Rice was doing the business throughout the term.

He had to fill in at centre half, performing well, as well as dominating in midfield for much of the season.

West Ham cannot afford to lose one of their outstanding performers during a summer where they hope to lay the foundations for progress next time out.

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He’s a future Hammers captain

Mark Noble is West Ham’s leader at the moment, and rightly so.

When the uncapped Englishman does eventually step aside, Rice is the outstanding contender in the current squad to take on the armband.

He leads by example with his performances and is clearly a popular member of the side, capable of bringing others with him as skipper.

He’s learning closely from Noble, and when the time is right, he should be the next man to wear the armband.

Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

It would send out a message

West Ham need to send a message that the London Stadium is a place where top players can progress their career and further their reputation.

It’s also key that the club shows itself to be capable of keeping its top talent, which is arguably more important than anyone they can procure in the transfer market.

Keeping Rice would give the club a foundation to build on for the season ahead.

The owners cannot cave in, no matter what Chelsea or anyone else offers. It would send out completely the wrong message to the fans, current players and potential recruits if they did.

In other news, Report: Leeds willing to pay £9m for seven-goal midfielder who matches Pablo Hernandez's stats