The Blues salvaged a draw against West Brom on Saturday having conceded three first-half goals in a shambolic display at the back, though Frank Lampard considered it two points dropped against a newly promoted team who had shipped eight goals in their previous two matches.
Lampard has been concerned about his defensive options for some time and had earmarked Rice as a potential solution.
While the Chelsea boss would like to convert him back into a centre-back – where he played throughout the youth ranks, both with the Blues and West Ham – he also feels his squad is missing a genuine holding midfielder.
The Hammers were initially believed to value Rice at as much as £80million, though, according to The Sun, Chelsea now think they can sign him for around half that fee.
Lampard is eager to add Rice to his squad and Chelsea will make a formal bid of just over £40m in the coming days, believing that West Ham are ‘desperate for cash’.
Lampard feels he has no-one in his squad who can sit in front of the defence and guard the backline, viewing N’Golo Kante’s best position as a more box-to-box role allowing him to press and harry further up the pitch.
Rice is thought to be keen on a return to Chelsea, having been released from the Blues’ academy at the age of 14, while he is still extremely close with Mason Mount.
West Ham’s owners, though, would face a massive backlash if they agreed to let Rice leave so close to the end of the window – and with so little time to reinvest the cash – particularly if they let him go for a relatively modest fee.
The sale of Diangana to West Brom sparked fury from fans with skipper Mark Noble even blasting the decision to let him leave on social media – with Rice ‘liking’ the comment.