Rice-Souness-Verratti-England-ItalyGetty/GOAL

West Ham's Declan Rice responds to 'harsh' Graeme Souness criticism as Marco Verratti backs England star to secure transfer to a 'top side'

  • Souness and Keane criticised Rice
  • Midfielder labels the former's comments "harsh"
  • Verratti hails Rice as top midfielder

WHAT HAPPENED? Souness insisted world-class midfielders “are creative, chip in with goals and have got a defensive head at all times” and claimed Rice has got "just one of them", by which he meant his defensive attributes - an opinion backed up by Roy Keane before Manchester United came out on top against West Ham in the fifth round of the FA Cup earlier in March. The England international has now issued a direct response to the criticism, defending his all-round game while iclaiming he has been the model of consistency for the Hammers.

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WHAT THEY SAID: “It’s harsh. I think it’s harsh because Souness doesn’t watch West Ham every week," Rice told reporters. "There’s loads of West Ham fans, 60,000 go every week, and see what I do. To say I’m only good at one of three is harsh. But Souness was a top midfielder and when someone like him speaks you have to sometimes listen and take on board where you can improve if that’s true.

"Roy as well, he’s said some glowing things about me in the past and sometimes some things I can improve as well. You take it with a pinch of salt and try not to let it affect you."

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THE BIGGER PICTURE: Despite the criticism from two legends of the game, Italy's Marco Verratti rates Rice as a top player. The Paris Saint-Germain star will come up against Rice once again in Euro 2024 qualifying, and ahead of their latest clash has backed the Arsenal and Chelsea-linked midfielder to secure a summer transfer.

“I really like him,” Verratti said. “He provides great balance to the team and has wonderful physical attributes. I’m sure he’ll end up at a top side.”

IN THREE PHOTOS:

Declan Rice West Ham 2022-23GettyDeclan Rice Kieran TrippierGetty ImagesMarco Verratti ItalyGOAL

WHAT NEXT? Rice will be in line to start when England face Italy in their opening 2024 European Championship qualifier in Naples on Thursday. The Three Lions will face Ukraine at Wembley three days later.

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