Over the course of the last few seasons, Declan Rice has emerged as one of English football’s most exciting young talents, his rise resulting in a place in Gareth Southgate’s most recent England squad.
There is no doubting the West Ham youngster’s potential, although there still remains a debate over whether his qualities are best served in defence or midfield. So, what does Rice need to do to silence the doubters and emerge as a world-class presence in the middle of the park? Football FanCast’s writers give their verdicts below…
“At the moment, Rice is a player that is consistently producing 8/10 performances for West Ham United, sometimes almost under the radar. To become a world-class midfielder he needs to start being more of a leader on the pitch and impose himself on matches even more. He needs to be the star man every week instead of merely the reliable one doing his job at a high level. He can learn a lot from Mark Noble in that respect, and that can be the difference for the 20-year-old if he wants to make it to the very top.”
“At just 20 with barely a full season of first team football under his belt, Rice has to do little more than what he is doing right now. The twice-capped ace is controlling matches for the Hammers, and the technical qualities of this young crop of English midfielders are a breath of fresh air. Stay fit, stay consistent, keep performing and keep learning and the world class tag will arrive in no time.”
“Rice has the well-rounded skill-set to rise into the world class bracket. He is remarkably excellent and consistent with his distribution considering he started his career in central defence, but if he can fine-tune that aspect of his game he could step further upfield into a box-to-box role. Modelling his game on a complete all-rounder like Fernandinho could transform him into one of the Premier League’s best.”
“Deep-lying midfielders are never going to be judged on goals but it’s becoming increasingly rare for those in the engine room to boast the height and aerial prowess of a centre-half, something Rice demonstrated with great effect during his previous stints in defence. As there will usually be at least two centre-backs on the pitch already when he plays, he should be the free man at set pieces or at the very least marked by someone who will struggle to match him in the air. That should result in plenty of goals and if he provides them while maintaining his usual standard of performance, he’ll be an exceptionally unique commodity.”