The 20-year-old, like his fellow Three Lions midfielders, was outclassed by the soon-to-be Barcelona star for much of the two teams’ Nations League semi-final clash on Thursday, which the Dutch won 3-1.
“With Rice – they’ll hate this, West Ham fans, I’m not banging you – I’m just saying, if he goes to a bigger club and gets that opportunity to express himself at the highest level, we might see an improvement as a player, as a whole, as well.”
As Gough says, the West Ham fans won’t like it, but he’s absolutely right. Nobody’s saying Rice should make a big money move away from the Hammers just yet, he’s probably better off staying there for another year or two, but eventually he will need to move on if he’s going to fulfil his potential. In the years to come he deserves to play Champions League football which, realistically, he’s not going to get at West Ham. It’s doubtful he’s ever going to become the player that de Jong is, the Dutchman is simply a much better footballer. However, once he’s matured a bit and is playing at the top level, there’s no reason why he can’t do a similar job for England as the Ajax star does for the Dutch. He’s a similar player in that he can defend and attack, linking the two while providing technical and tactical excellence in the middle of the park. So Rice isn’t at de Jong’s level just yet, and likely never will be. However, he can get much closer if he moves to a top club.