West Ham United captain-in-waiting Declan Rice has been one of the young stars of the Premier League season so far.
West Ham handed the 19-year-old midfield destroyer a new long-term deal on Christmas day.
It was the best Christmas present Hammers fans could wish for and came after months of negotiations and speculation over Rice’s future.
Both Republic of Ireland and England are fighting it out over Rice’s international future.
Meanwhile the former Chelsea youth player has been busy cementing himself as one of the first names on Manuel Pellegrini’s teamsheet.
Rice has saved West Ham a fortune in transfer market
That is despite the Chilean spending £100 million on new signings in the summer.
West Ham are genuine contenders for a Europa League spot with Rice at the heart of the side.
But he is not just making the difference on the pitch.
According to West Ham Academy director Terry Westley, Rice is helping the club attract top talent too.
Speaking to West Ham’s official website, Westley – who oversaw Rice’s graduation from the Hammers Academy ranks – lifted the lid on how Rice is making quality recruitment easier for the club.
‘Using Declan to our advantage’
“Declan is still only 19, and that’s incredible to think,” Westley told whufc.com.
“His rise and what he has done consistently now with different managers is amazing. Whether it’s Slaven Bilic, whether it’s David Moyes, whether it’s Manuel Pellegrini who has picked him, it’s clear they all trust and believe in him.
“He’s now become an established feature in the team. He is wanted internationally by two different countries and I think from an Academy perspective, for producing the right type of player for Premier League football, it’s been a huge success.
“He’s now made more than 50 appearances – there aren’t many 19-year-olds that have made 50 appearances for a Premier League club, for a club we consider a top 10 club. He’s been a superb flag bearer for other players in the Academy, and I’ve noticed it within Chadwell Heath.
West Ham embracing their Academy roots once more
“Other players and other families, parents look at Dec and think it can be done. That their child can reach the same level. You use that to your advantage and it gives you a great recruitment tool and it gives the other players a real insight of what it takes to break through and know it can be done.”
Westley is undoubtedly using Rice and the likes of Grady Diangana, Issa Diop and Xande Silva as evidence to top talent elsewhere that West Ham are once again giving a pathway for young players.
The Hammers are famed for their academy roots. And supporters take great pride in the conveyor belt of talent produced by the club over the years.
For owners David Sullivan and David Gold there is also the added incentive of saving money in the transfer market.
In that respect Rice is clearly already paying off his bumper new deal in more ways than one.