Ex-Leeds United and Coventry City striker Noel Whelan has told Football Insider that Rice will one day become one of the Premier League’s best centre-backs.
The Englishman already has six caps for his country, largely operating in a defensive midfield role, Whelan feels that a move to centre-half is inevitable for the former Republic of Ireland international.
“He is perfect for that position. He’s strong in the air, mobile, reads danger well, has good concentration and he is full of confidence on the ball,” explained Whelan.
“In many ways, Rice is the ideal modern centre-back. It may help him in the long run that he’s played in midfield for an extended spell.
“I expect him to be playing permanently at centre-back sooner rather than later, he’s a good defensive midfielder, don’t get me wrong, but he would be a great centre-back.”
It’s hard to argue with the former forward’s assessment, with the stats supporting an argument that Rice could potentially become a solid defender. Indeed, with the English national side suffering defensive problems of late after losing to the Czech Republic last week, perhaps the former Chelsea graduate could offer something in the backline.
According to WhoScored, the 20-year-old averaged a pass success rate of 86.4%, winning nearly two aerial duels per game and making 3.8 tackles. Obviously, he’s been deployed in a defensive role already in terms of anchoring the midfield, though Transfermarkt do note that he has made 49 of his 107 career appearances as a central defender.
Clearly, Rice is doing something right to be recognised as England’s starting defensive midfielder, as well as a Premier League regular, but he does appear to have the natural attributes and some decent experience to make such a transition, which could help at international level if nothing else.
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