Is ‘world-class’ Declan Rice the best defensive midfielder on the planet?

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

David Moyes certainly raised a few eyebrows last month when he said rival clubs missed out on a bargain in the summer when Declan Rice was valued at £100million.

The feeling at West Ham is that Rice is now worth significantly more than that and, given his stellar form, it is hard to disagree.

After driving West Ham to a sixth-placed finish last season and enjoying a brilliant summer with England at Euro 2020, Rice has pushed himself to new heights this season.

He has become a leader for club and country and this week John Terry described the 22-year-old midfielder is “the best in his position in world football”. On current form, you could make a legitimate argument that Terry is right.

Going into Sunday’s 3-2 win over Liverpool, Rice was leading the way in the Premier League for blocks, interceptions, passing accuracy, possession won, successful passes and tackles won.

Watch: Warm up routine

 (Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
(Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Against Jurgen Klopp’s side, he produced another outstanding display as West Ham moved up to third, topping the match stats for possession gained, tackles, passing and passing accuracy.

Rice is one of the few England starters from the team that reached the Euro 2020 Final to have made a strong start to the season.

While others have been out of form and looked fatigued, the West Ham captain has been one of the Premier League’s standout players.

Those who know Rice put his outstanding form down an obsession with improvement and having his feet firmly on the ground.

After the Euros, Rice had a short holiday with friends, including Chelsea midfielder and best friend Mason Mount, before getting away from everything with his girlfriend, Lauren, while other players stayed away together.

He then returned to pre-season training with West Ham ahead of schedule, just 23 days after the heartbreak of losing to Italy on penalties at Wembley.

For those around the club, that decision epitomises everything about Rice as a professional.

“The family and the background of the boy, the way he has been brought up and the network around him, is the key to normality and normality brings a real opportunity to push forward,” says David Hunt, West Ham’s former head of academy recruitment, who played a key role in bringing a 14-year-old Rice to the club after he was released by Chelsea.

“He is so disciplined. What he will do is look at his game, have discussions with people who he trusts. He will look at stuff and say: ‘Right, I need to do this.’ David Moyes and the coaching staff will challenge him as well.

“If he sees any part of his game that he can improve in any way, he will do it and he will improve.”

Rice has a tight-knit group around him. He consults his family - dad Sean, who now represents him as his agent, and his brothers - as well as former West Ham youth coaches on how to move forward in his career and identify the next steps to become a better player.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“He is world-class,” adds Hunt. “He’s put himself in a world-class bracket and he’s the best player in his position in the world.

“The frightening thing is he will find a way to get better again, that is the secret to it. He will keep going and going and going.”

Last season, Rice and Moyes identified that he could be doing more on the ball to help West Ham going forward, and he has improved that part of his game this season, too.

In all competitions, Rice has three goals and three assists, including a brilliant solo goal on his European debut at Dinamo Zagreb.

It is a tantalising prospect to imagine how he can continue to step it up.

Rice is never one to shy away from criticism either. Roy Keane was publicly critical of the midfielder early on in his career but has now changed his tune, claiming Rice is “way ahead” of where he was at 22.

Criticism from the right people plays a significant role in his development.

“As players, you always see what people have got to say,” Rice said earlier this season. “But someone like me that sees that I don’t really take it as criticism - I see and I think I’m going to prove that person wrong.”

Rice has proved many people wrong in his rise at West Ham, but continue preforming the way he is and he will prove Terry right.

Watch: HIIT training 101

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