West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice should be playing Champions League football, according to pundit Garth Crooks.
Writing on his Premier League team of the week for this weekend’s action, via BBC Sport, Crooks lavished praise on the West Ham man, even going so far as to say he deserves the captaincy when incumbent Mark Noble retires at the end of this season. But, he also warned that because of his quality he will soon move on to pastures new in order to play at the top table of football.
Crooks wrote: “If ever there was a player to take over the captaincy of West Ham from Mark Noble then Declan Rice was that player. He gets better with every game. He seems to cover more ground than anyone in his team and you can guarantee 100% effort every week.
“No doubt that’s precisely what David Moyes and England manager Gareth Southgate think of him. Rice showed all of those redeeming qualities against Everton.
“West Ham fans won’t like me for saying this but how long can the East London club hold onto him? This lad should be playing Champions League football. It’s only a matter of time.”
Rice has been strenuously linked with a move away over the last summer and has been linked strongly with Manchester United (via MEN), with The Red Devils in desperate need of a proper defensive midfielder who is simultaneously capable of ball progression from deep and also able to protect the back four.
Nemanja Matic isn’t getting any younger and has looked unconvincing for a while now, and Fred remains a slightly limited player who just hasn’t quite settled into Premier League football.
The stats back up that Rice would be an important upgrade for Man Utd. Against Everton alone he completed 71 passes and was the only player on his team to make at least two blocks.
Declan Rice's game by numbers vs. Everton:
100% aerial duels won
91% pass accuracy
10 ball recoveries
7 passes into final ?
7 take-ons attempted
5 duels won
3 take-ons completed
2 chances created
2 aerial duels
Is there anything this man can't do? ? pic.twitter.com/VMc3OTPRlj
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 17, 2021
Furthermore, the England international has added a new string to his bow that was already teeming with talent; the ability to frequently dribble the ball successfully up the pitch.
Last season, Rice was one of the league’s best in terms of successful dribbles, but the low volume of these dribbles indicated it was something he could only seldom do.
However, this year the 22-year-old is the single most progressive player in terms of yards the ball has been progressed via dribbling, ahead of perceived specialists such as Newcastle’s Allan Saint-Maximin, Manchester City’s Jack Grealish, or Wolves’ Adama Traore.
In fact, the next closest centre midfielders to him in this metric are Man United’s Paul Pogba (if you count him as one) and Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic, who is himself a specialist in breaking the lines of press through his own extraordinary dribbling ability.
Whatever the case, there are many reasons why Rice is such a desirable asset to top clubs such as Manchester United, though they will likely have to cough up a large fee for him, especially if they want to go after him in January.