Declan Rice will develop into a “brilliant” centre-back for West Ham and England.
That is the verdict of ex-Leeds United and Coventry City striker Noel Whelan, speaking exclusively to Football Insider about the 20-year-old Hammer.
Rice has firmly established himself as the first choice midfield anchorman in Manuel Pellegrini’s side over the last two seasons.
He has also earned six England caps playing in the position after initially starting out in the senior West Ham side at centre-back.
“I expect Declan Rice to be playing permanently at centre-back sooner rather than later,” Whelan told Football Insider. “He’s a good defensive midfielder, don’t get me wrong, but he would be a great centre-back.
“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.
“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.”
Rice has been a mainstay of the West Ham starting XI since a chastening experience in a Premier League thrashing at Liverpool at the start of last season.
He has started 41 of the club’s last 42 league matches, including all eight in this campaign.
Pellegrini’s first choice centre-back pairing are Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna, with Fabian Balbuena proving cover.