Sport Soccer

Tuesday 26 March 2019

West Ham manager declares Declan Rice is already England's best holding midfielder after international switch

Declan Rice waiting for his international clearance to represent England Photo: Reuters
Declan Rice waiting for his international clearance to represent England Photo: Reuters
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini has claimed Declan Rice is the best option England can call upon in the holding midfield role, after the 20-year-old confirmed his intention to switch his allegiances from the Republic of Ireland.

Rice ended months of speculation over his international future by confirming he has started the process of registering himself as an England player, despite winning three senior international caps with Ireland.

The London-born player will make only his 60th West Ham appearance against Fulham on Friday night, but Pellegrini believes he is already good enough to be a starter for England.

"I think he is ready to play for England," said Pellegrini, with Rice set to do battle with Liverpool's Jordan Henderson and Tottenham's Eric Dier for the anchor role in the England midfield.

"I think we are just starting the development of him as a player, but at this moment his performances are better than every holding midfielder.

"At least I am talking about the English players. Maybe there are other foreign players in big teams that are also playing well, like Fernandinho, but I repeat we are just starting to see what will be with Declan in the future.

"He is improving in a lot of different things in that position. Maybe he must improve more and have a better view of the pitch but he has such good technique that he never misses a pass.

"He is always keeping his position in the correct moment so as young player he will always be learning more things, but at this moment I think he is a complete player."

Pellegrini went on to compare Rice to a young Javier Mascherano, who emerged through the ranks when he was manager at River Plate, before he emerged as a star with Argentina, Liverpool and Barcelona.

"It is difficult to compare different players in 20 years of management but Declan is a very good player," Pellegrini added.

"I worked with so many young players. I started with Javier Mascherano when he was 17 and he was similar to Declan in his mentality.

"The mentality when they are 17 or 19... it seemed they had the mentality of a 35-year-old.

"When you have 17, 18, 19-year-olds arrive in the first team, playing in the first team changes a bit your mind and you think that you are ready.

"But in the case of Declan he knows that he is just starting, and that is important."

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