EXCLUSIVE

Danny Mills has claimed West Ham defensive midfielder could become an “outstanding” centre half as he tips the Hammers mainstay for a tactical switch.

The former England defender, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, says that the 20-year-old has all the attributes to slot into the heart of the defence if needed, predicting that Manuel Pellegrini will call on him sooner rather than later.

Rice started his senior career playing as a centre back, playing the second half of the 2017/18 season in defence, but was moved up into the middle of the pitch when injuries struck at the start of the 2018/19 campaign.

Having established himself as a mainstay for his club and potentially his country, Mills says he could be dropping back into the back line sooner rather than later.

Asked if West Ham have enough cover at the back, Mills told Football Insider: “I think they’ll be okay, it wouldn’t surprise me if at some point we see Declan Rice slot into the back-four.

“I think he could become an outstanding centre half as well, they have that option as well.”

Rice, who has played 71 times for the Irons’ senior side, played 38 times across all competitions last season, operating solely as a midfielder rather than a centre back.

Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena were Manuel Pellegrini’s pairing of choice for their opening day clash against Manchester City, the Hammers torn apart in a 5-0 thrashing.

In other West Ham news, Darren Bent has told Football Insider that he is bitterly disappointed by a Hammers forward who has “flattered to deceive” during his time at the club.