Michail Antonio claims West Ham teammate is third best defensive midfielder in England

A general view outside of the stadium prior to the Premier League match between West Ham United and Everton at London Stadium on May 13, 2018 in London, England.

Declan Rice has made a huge impact in the Premier League at the heart of West Ham United's midfield.

West Ham United's Aaron Cresswell celebrates scoring his side's second goal with Issa Diop, Andriy Yarmolenko and Declan Rice during the Premier League match between West Ham United and...

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.

N'Golo Kante of Chelsea and Fernandinho of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on December 8, 2018 in London, United...

“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.”

It speaks volumes about Rice’s potential that Antonio would choose him ahead of Manchester City’s £63 million record signing Rodri, plus Liverpool’s £39 million Champions League winner Fabinho.

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.

West Ham United's Declan Rice during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and West Ham United at Vitality Stadium on September 28, 2019 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom.

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