Michail Antonio believes West Ham United team-mate Declan Rice is the third best defensive midfielder in the Premier League right now, behind Fernandinho and N’Golo Kante but ahead of the likes of Fabinho and Rodri.
Rice has certainly come a long way in the space of 12 months. This time last year, he was starting to establish himself as a useful first-team player at the London Stadium but few would have expected back then that the 20-year-old would be one of the league’s most consistent performers, not to mention an England international, in the autumn of 2019.
The converted centre-back has been a revelation in the centre of the park thanks to his excellent reading of the game, mobility and impressive passing range. And Antonio, speaking to the Monday Night Club on BBC Radio 5 Live, believes only Manchester City and Chelsea have better options in the middle.
“Declan Rice is one of the best defensive midfield players in the league,” said the former Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday winger. “After Fernandinho, after Kante, I’d probably put him third.
“As an example, against Manchester United, Marcus Rashford has gone through and is running into the box and he’s got probably ten yards on Declan, but I just thought ‘Dec is going to get the ball’. He cleans up everything.
“It’s just his stature with his long legs and he’s a tall guy. He keeps the team ticking, he’s technically quality, he’s got his left foot and his right foot and he’s young.”
There’s also the likes of Lucas Torreira, Wilfred Ndidi and Luke Milivojevic plying their trade in England’s top flight these days but the scary thing about Rice is that he is only going to get better with age.
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