Pellegrini - Rice will be a 'top player' for club and country

Evening Standard

Manuel Pellegrini has heaped praise on the progress of youngster Declan Rice after he scored his first goal for West Ham.

The midfielder, who turns 20 on Monday, has already amassed over 50 first team appearances for the Hammers, and scored the winning goal against Arsenal with a composed second half-finish at London Stadium.

Rice, who recently penned a new deal through to 2024, played down comparisons with West Ham legend Bobby Moore this week and revealed that he will make a call on his international future soon after meetings with Gareth Southgate and his Republic of Ireland counterpart Mick McCarthy.

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AS IT HAPPENED: West Ham v Arsenal

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Pellegrini has consistently called on the converted defender to improve the playmaking side of the game, and he once again dictated the game against London rivals Arsenal.

“I am sure that Declan will be a top player,” Pellegrini said.

“He is improving in every game that he plays and is now more used to give us a good build up in front and not so many passes that before he played back.

“He is very strong in aerial duels, strong in 1v1 and has a good technique which he demonstrated today in the goal he scored so I am sure that we are seeing a top player soon.

“Not only for West Ham, also for the national squad he decides to play.”

Pellegrini has been unrelenting in his approach to alter the mentality at West Ham in shifting them towards being a big club, and the Chilean felt Saturday’s performance epitomised that attitude.

“Very happy for the club and fans that we beat a big club as Arsenal,” he added.

“More pleased with the way we play. As I say, we always say we try and play as a big team, have the mentality of a big team and have an ambitious mind. I think that the team reflects today all what I am talking about.”

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