West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini has this morning lavished praise on Hammers’ youngster Declan Rice.
West Ham prodigy
Versatile 20-year-old Rice can line out as either a central defender or defensive midfielder.
After showcasing his massive potential across 26 Premier League appearances for West Ham last season (15 starts), Rice has since gone on to cement himself as an integral member of Manuel Pellegrini’s midfield to this point in the current campaign.
The teen has started in 23 of the Hammers’ 26 league outings, earning rave reviews for his performances versus the likes of Tottenham, Leicester and Arsenal:
18 years old.
Man of the match.
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) January 4, 2018
‘He is ready’
Rice’s rise to prominence recently saw England win out in a public tug-of-war with the Republic of Ireland over securing the Hammers’ starlet’s international allegiance.
And, on the back of subsequent claims that England boss Gareth Southgate is keen to include Rice in his upcoming squad for the Three Lions’ European Championship qualifiers at the end of March, Manuel Pellegrini this morning revealed his opinion that the 20-year-old is more than ready to take his place at the base of England’s midfield.
In fact, speaking to reporters, the West Ham manager suggested that his side’s crown jewel is already the finest holding midfielder available to Southgate:
‘Yes, I think he is ready to play for England.’
‘We are just starting the development of him as a player but in this moment his performances are better than every holding midfielder that they have in the other teams.’
‘In this moment, yes. At least, I am talking about the English players in the Premier League.’
‘Maybe there are foreign players in big teams like Fernandinho that are also [very good].’
‘But we are just starting to see what Declan will be in the future.’
‘The mind of a mature player’
Pellegrini also went on to liken Rice to former West Ham midfield general and Argentine legend, Javier Mascherano:
‘I have worked with so many young players. I started with Javier Mascherano when he was 17 years old. He was similar to Declan Rice in his mentality. When they were 17 or 18 years old, it seemed that they had a mentality of a 35-year-old.’
‘When you are 17, 18, 19 years old, when you arrive in the first team it can change your mindset and make you think you are ready.’
‘In the case of Declan, he knows that he just starting. That is very important.’
‘He is 20 years old but has the mind of a mature player. He is always listening when you are talking to him. He is always trying to learn from other players that have more experience.’
‘You see that he is improving in every training session. Every training session he does here, he does it with 100 per cent intensity and is always trying to improve.’
Quotes via Sky Sports.