Roy Keane believes that West Ham and England midfielder Declan Rice has a long way to go to become the finished article.
Rice has been linked with a move to Keane’s former club Manchester United, and plays as a defensive midfielder, the position the no-nonsense Irishman occupied as captain of Sir Alex Ferguson’s juggernaut in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
More recently Keane took a role as Martin O'Neill’s assistant with the Republic of Ireland and saw Rice at close quarters as the youngster made three appearances in friendlies before switching allegiances to England.
Keane didn’t hold back in his criticism of Rice, when asked to sum up his defects.
“Where he needs to improve, there are plenty of aspects if you think about it,” he said on ITV Sport before England’s 4-0 win over Kosovo.
“Over the last few months he has had a lot of praise, I worked with him while he was with the Ireland squad.
“Where does he need to improve, where do you want me to start? His positional play I don’t think is consistent enough, he doesn’t stay with runners, he’s sloppy in possession.
“I can go on.”
Rice played all 90 minutes of what was a comfortable win for the Three Lions with qualification already secured.
Rice had not started either of the previous two matches, having been dropped after Gareth Southgate’s only defeat in qualifying - a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic in October.
The 20-year-old had played from the off in the three previous qualification matches for England, and Keane believes he had paid the price for inconsistent displays for club and country in being shouldered aside by Harry Winks.
“He’s one of those players, a couple of months ago everyone was enjoying him and loved him,” he added.
“He’s one of those players that’s now played his way out of the team because he’s not been consistent for West Ham.”
Winks played alongside Rice against Kosovo, scoring his first goal for England in the process.
Rice will have to wait until March to see if Southgate agrees with Keane, when the next England squad will be announced.