Thursday 17 January 2019

Rice nears decision on international future and targets long-term success

Declan Rice has signed a new contract to resolve his club situation but his international future remains unclear. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Declan Rice has signed a new contract to resolve his club situation but his international future remains unclear. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Declan Rice has delivered a clear signal that the saga surrounding his international future is nearing a conclusion.

But he has kept his cards close to his chest in terms of indicating which way he is leaning.

The 19-year-old has spoken with Mick McCarthy and Gareth Southgate to hear what they have to say.

And he told the 'Evening Standard' that his chat with McCarthy was a real family affair. It was known that his father, Sean, was present for discussions and Rice added that his brother Connor was also present for the chat with the new Irish boss.

Former Ireland manager Martin O'Neill had previously claimed that Rice's brothers had initially favoured a switch to England before veering back towards green. It has been widely reported that his father wants Rice to stay put.

The player says he is close to deciding where he stands now that he has agreed a new contract with West Ham, although he also told the London newspaper that he has long-term ambitions of winning the Champions League and competing for honours.

Timely

That is timely in light of speculation that Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has earmarked Rice as a possible replacement for Fernandinho for further down the road.

"With regard to my international future, myself, my dad and my brother (Connor) have talked with Ireland coach Mick McCarthy and I've also spoken to Gareth Southgate," said Rice.

"They've both said that whenever I'm ready, it's up to me to make a decision. There was so much going on earlier in the season but now most of that has been sorted, so I will make a decision soon.

"As for now, I want to play at the top level throughout my career. I want to win trophies, even the Champions League. You have to be ambitious. If not, what's the point?"

Rice indicated that he was flattered by comparisons to England's World Cup-winning captain and West Ham legend Bobby Moore; the club's owner David Gold had mentioned the 1966 hero in referencing his desire for the London-born player to represent the country of his birth.

"It's nice to be told there are similarities but nobody will come close to him - what a player, what a man," continued Rice.

"Just to be mentioned in the same breath as Bobby is something really special for me. I know I still have a lot to learn. If you're not learning, you don't progress."

Rice opened up on the influence that his father has had on his career, detailing how he still sends him the same text message before every match: 'Start quick, start well, win your first header, your first tackle.'

"My mum, Stephanie, and my dad have always wanted the best for me. Dad was never one to shout from the sidelines but we would talk a lot in the car - still do.

"I want to hear what he has to say, good or bad, because he always tells the truth. I always believed in what he said and he always believed I would make it as a footballer.

"We're a team. I've just clocked up 50 matches in the Premier League for West Ham and so has he, because he hasn't missed a game."

He also referenced his friendship with John Terry who was a source of advice when Rice was released from Chelsea, his first club, at the age of 14. They still meet regularly.

The player suggested that facing such a challenge early in his development helped to build the mental strength that has helped him cope with his increased profile and the attention that has accompanied his international decision and the contract impasse.

"I've always been good at handling stuff mentally," said Rice, whose new £40,000-a-week (€44,000) deal is quite an increase from his old £3,000-a-week (€3,300) arrangement.

"I knew the new contract would happen. It was a long wait but I was aware that, if I started thinking about it too much, it would distract me. We were playing vital games and you just can't let stuff like that distract you."

Irish Independent

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