The 20-year-old started in central midfield in his country’s 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands last week, and Neville is concerned he’s been thrown in at international level too soon.
“Declan Rice is a young player, who has shown a lot of promise at West Ham, but this is a different level all together for that young man, in terms of subtlety, accepting the ball, the nuances,” he told Sky Sports. “He’s got a lot to learn in terms of becoming a top international midfield player. He’s got three or four years to develop into that.
“No other country in the top nations would put a player into that midfield so untested. We are still in a situation where if you play 10, 15, 20 games for a Premier League team, not even in the top half of the table, you are having to be catapulted into a situation, which in some ways is unfair.”
This is an interesting assessment from Neville, and there are a few different points to get your teeth into, here. It’s hard to say whether international football is a ‘different level’. The majority of national teams Rice will come up against with England will be playing worse midfielders than he usually faces in the Premier League. Yes, you’ll get the exception to that, like with Frenkie de Jong, but generally the likes of San Marino, Slovenia and Lichtenstein shouldn’t give the young man too much to worry about. He does still have a lot to learn, though, that is beyond doubt. It’s worth remembering that he was always a centre back growing up, so he’s still learning the subtleties of being a top class holding midfield player. Neville is right in what he says about decent Premier League players being catapulted into the national team. That still happens all too readily and is probably a symptom of there not being enough home-grown footballers regularly starting games in the top flight anymore. Having said that, Rice deserves his place in the England set-up.