Even considering the enormity of Rice’s reputation at the culmination of a breakthrough 2017/18 campaign, the majority of West Ham fans would have called you insane if you’d argued the combative midfielder would develop into one of Europe’s most coveted talents by June 2019.
But football has its mysterious ways.
This season the Hammers academy product has established himself as not only one of the most important players in the West Ham XI, but as also one of the most promising youngsters on the continent as well as a full England international, and this summer, Rice’s value could increase even more.
With the Nations League set to continue this evening, expectations are high for England to perform in Portugal and bring home their first piece of international silverware since the 1966 World Cup, but Gareth Southgate’s side face a formidable foe in the Netherlands, who have a success story of their own similar to Rice.
Donny van der Beek’s rise to the top draws parallels to Rice’s. The Ajax midfielder established himself as a first-team player for the historic Dutch side in the 2017/18 campaign, starting in all but one Eredivisie game. Fast-forward a year, and the youngster is now one of the hottest properties in football.
Van der Beek hit 17 goals and 13 assists in all-competitions for the Amsterdam-based club this season as Ajax secured a domestic double and came seconds away from a Champions League final, a route that the midfielder played a pivotal role in as the Dutch international scored in the decisive quarter-final match against Juventus as well as against Tottenham in the semi-finals.
It has been a season to remember for the midfielder, who just like Rice, has seen his stock increase massively after such a remarkable campaign for Ajax, and with the two likely to meet in Portugal on the international stage, the West Ham man could see his value increase even further if he puts Van der Beek in his place.
Rice has shown this season how dominant he can be in the midfield, shutting down the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United where it hurt them most in previous games this season.
If the England man can do the same against Ronald Koeman’s side and, perhaps most pertinently for the Three Lions, Van der Beek, the West Ham youngster will see his global reputation increase another level.