'Rice is already England's best holding midfielder' - Pellegrini hails 'complete' West Ham star

Getty Images
Having made the decision to represent the Three Lions at senior international level, rather than Ireland, the youngster has seen his qualities saluted

West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini insists Declan Rice is primed to play for England and is already their best option as holding midfielder.

Rice confirmed last month that he intends to represent the Three Lions in future, announcing his decision to switch international allegiance from Republic of Ireland – the country of his grandparents – after deliberating for some months.

The 20-year-old revealed he consulted England boss Gareth Southgate, former Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and his successor Mick McCarthy in the process, before ultimately settling on the change.

Rice has earned rave reviews in midfield for West Ham this season and was impressive again in Saturday's 2-0 win over Newcastle United, in which he opened the scoring, and Pellegrini feels it would be a no-brainer for Southgate to select him for March's Euro 2020 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Montenegro.

"He's a complete player," Pellegrini told reporters.

"That is a player who, for me, is the best English holding midfielder. The other important thing is he is trying to learn every day.

"He's a young player who has just started his career. He must try to continue listening, keep doing the things he does every day, play and get the experience he needs."

Article continues below

Rice has played 26 of West Ham's 29 Premier League matches this season.

He hs said of his decision to commit to England heading forward and his desire to make Southgate's next squad: "I played three games for Ireland at international level. I made the switch to England, nothing's guaranteed because there are some unbelievable players in the England set-up.

"I've got to be hopeful the paperwork goes through as well. I believe it's with FIFA at the moment, so I'm just hoping that gets through in time, and in the matches between now and the March call-ups I can do enough to maybe get in the squad."