The 31-year-old has been the gold standard at the holding midfield position for about a decade now, and Rice is a big fan. Meanwhile, he has labelled Hammers summer signing Pablo Fornals – Busquets’s compatriot – an ‘unbelievable talent’.
“He just stays in the centre of the pitch and plays it. He’s so good at what he does he just makes it look effortless. But I pretty much focus on myself when I watch clips – where I can get better, where I could have won a tackle, played a different pass. Things like that, things I can learn from so that when I go into a game I might do something different.”
When you play as a defensive midfielder, there’s few better players to look at and learn from than Busquets. He has emerged as one of the best holding midfielders in the history of the game, an elegant yet simple operator who takes the ball and offloads it almost immediately, letting the more naturally talented players in the team do their work going forward. However, that humility is an ability in and of itself. You have to have a real sense of perspective and lack of ego to realise you’re not the most technically gifted player, and that it’s going to be better for the team if you work as a destroyer and recycler of possession. That’s what Busquets has done for many years now, and it’s what Rice has been doing for the past year or so. He is arguably the premier English holding midfielder at the moment. As for Fornals being an unbelievable talent; let’s just hope he can justify Rice’s praise once it comes to competitive football.