Declan Rice’s soaring reputation culminated on Saturday afternoon following his near-perfect display against Arsenal, and he has rightly earned esteemed praise throughout the British media in the aftermath of proceedings.
Rice may not be quite one of West Ham’s own but the feelings of pride etched over the faces of supporters in the London Stadium on Saturday suggested he was born and raised in east London.
His winning goal against the Gunners represented something of a proud father moment for the multitude of supporters who have monitored his development with keen interest since he first stepped into the senior squad at the beginning of last season, and as he celebrates his 20th birthday today it’s fair to say he’s only just getting started.
Rice epitomised the grit and determination of West Ham’s performance, marshalling the midfield with the maturity of a veteran in their mid-thirties and showcasing a centre-forwards composure to delicately place Samir Nasri’s lay off into the top corner.
It was a complete midfield performance worthy of his place in the footballing headlines, as eulogisers turned out in their numbers across multiple platforms to have their say on a genuine wonderkid.
One of those gushing admirers was Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp, who delivered a glowing verdict on Rice in his team of the week column as published by the Daily Mail.
‘I have followed Declan’s career for some time. He first caught my eye as a centre back in Chelsea’s academy. He reminded me of a young John Terry — assured in possession, strong in the air and a good communicator.’
The comparison with Terry, while perhaps slightly hyperbolic in tone, is indicative of how he has managed to rise through the ranks to establish himself at West Ham, but the fact he is now operating in midfield with complete conviction is a testament to his exemplary ability to read the game and combine that with his class in possession of the ball.
Redknapp went on to add: ‘Pellegrini worked with Fernandinho at Manchester City. While Rice still has much to learn, against Arsenal he played like the Brazilian at his best.’
Considering Fernandinho (valued at £13.5 million by Transfermarkt) is the best midfield anchor in English football right now, Redknapp’s comparison with the Man City star is a testament to the gargantuan nature of his performance, even if the parallels are once again hyperbolic in tone.
Rice undoubtedly has years of intense developing to do on the technical side of his game before he can be considered in the same class as Fernandinho but, on the basis of his performance against Arsenal, his natural ability to spot danger and recover possession will provide the basis for a fantastic career in English football.
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