'Rice can be better than Mascherano' - Lanzini gives West Ham 'hero' big billing

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A man who has played alongside two top midfield talents believes his current club colleague has the potential to top an iconic international colleague

Declan Rice is a relative novice when it comes to a midfield holding role, but Manuel Lanzini claims his West Ham team-mate has the potential to “be better than Javier Mascherano”.

The Hammers forward is well placed to make such a statement as he has graced the same side as both players.

At club level, the Argentine has been impressed by the rapid progress made in Rice’s game while, on an international stage, Lanzini has worked alongside record-breaking Mascherano.

The former West Ham, Liverpool and Barcelona star has 147 caps for his country and countless major honours to his name – including two Champions League crowns – but Lanzini believes that Rice is capable of taking his game to even greater heights.

The South American told the Hammers’ official website of a 20-year-old talent who recently switched allegiance from the Republic of Ireland to England: “Declan, for me, is the hero of the team.

“He is a very young player, but it is as if he has played 200 games. He is amazing.

“I like to play with him because he has good touch, he has good recovery, I think he is one of the best players in the Premier League.

“He is [like Mascherano]. I played with Mascherano and he is a very good player. He is 20 and I think Declan needs to continue like this, if he stays focused and I think he can be better than Mascherano.”

Manuel Lanzini Argentina

Having seen Rice flourish over recent weeks, with the youngster moved out of a defensive berth and into midfield, Lanzini is hoping to do likewise over the remainder of the campaign.

The 26-year-old has endured a testing time with injuries of late, but has enjoyed a positive return to Premier League action and is now looking to play his way back into peak form.

“I am feeling good now, I am feeling happy,” added Lanzini.

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“It was a long injury, it was eight months and it was difficult at the time, but now I am feeling good and I am close to being 100 per cent, so I am happy about that.

“The knee is strong. I don’t have any swelling which is good and, of course, I do feel nervous to play again as it has been a long time. The first 90 minutes [since my injury was against Newcastle] and I was nervous but now I am feeling happy.

“I think seventh place is possible, it is only four points between us. In the Premier League, anything is possible, and the ultimate is to finish in the seventh position.”