Former West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic has hailed Declan Rice for becoming such an integral part of Manuel Pellegrini’s plans.
Bilic was the man who gave Rice his inaugural taste of first-team football on the final day of the 2016-17 season at Burnley, and the 20-year-old’s reputation has shot up since then.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, as cited in the Claret & Hugh, Bilic commended the defender-turned-midfielder after he made his England debut off the bench against the Czech Republic on Friday.
He has a bit of everything; very strong in the tackle, good in positioning himself, decent quick and hungry for the second ball. We got him mainly as a centre-back in training, then we put him as a holding midfielder because he keeps the position there and can pass the ball.
He’s like the metronome, he keeps the balance of the team, doesn’t go up or down or left or right. He stays in position which was unbelievably mature for his age. He’s doing exactly the right thing to play in different areas of the pitch and see which one he is most suited to. He is learning all the time.
Rice was the under-23s captain when he was initially brought to Bilic’s attention but now starts week-in-week-out for the Hammers.
He recently reached the 50-appearance milestone for West Ham and, understandably, transfer talk has already begun ahead of the summer window, with Pep Guardiola reportedly viewing him as a potential Fernandinho replacement.
Admittedly, it’s unlikely Rice will stay at the London Stadium forever, his stock is high, so enjoy him while you can.