The Sky Sports pundit used his column to sing Rice’s praises and highlight why he has the skillset to be an ideal centre-back for Gareth Southgate’s England, and it’s easy to see why he did this.
“I see a centre back in the 20-year-old and that is where his future could lie for club and country, rather than being used solely in midfield,” wrote Redknapp in his column for the Daily Mail.
England looked defensively suss against the Czech Republic and they could do with a reliable centre-back to call upon, and it’s not like Rice hasn’t played at centre-half before.
The 20-year-old featured 15 times for the Hammers as a centre-back in the Premier League during the 2017/18 season, before Manuel Pellegrini arrived and opted to use him as a midfield enforcer from the start of the 2018/19 campaign.
Rice has flourished in his midfield role as not only has he started to earn caps for England, but he is still delivering great performances for the Hammers as we speak.
In his 2019/20 campaign so far, the 20-year-old has averaged a staggeringly good 3.8 tackles per game, an impressive 2.3 interceptions per match, and even had time to surge forward to help his team by completing 1.3 dribbles per game. (Source: WhoScored)
Yet if Pellegrini was to one day heed Redknapp’s suggestion and deploy Rice as a centre-back once again, it’s clear the Hammers need to sign an upgrade on Carlos Sanchez.
The experienced midfielder is the Hammers only other real option aside from Rice and Mark Noble, who both reguarly start games, that could play as a midfield enforcer currently as the likes of Jack Wilshere seem more comfortable pushing forward rather than sitting back.
Yet Sanchez has struggled to impress for the Hammers.
The midfielder, who earns £50,000-a-week (Source: Spotrac), has been limited to just 14 minutes of league action this season, as per WhoScored, which is a reflection of how he isn’t highly rated or overly trusted by Pellegrini.
While you don’t want to write a player off based on how little he’s played, as maybe he just hasn’t had the opportunities, Sanchez’s 2018/19 stats are telling.
Ahead of an injury that cut his campaign short, the 33-year-old played seven times in the league, 240 minutes, and didn’t look up to scratch.
Sanchez only averaged 0.6 tackles per match, on average only made a woeful 20.4 passes per game and managed to get dispossessed 0.3 times per game. (Source: WhoScored)
So if Rice is going to be allowed to transition back to a centre-back anytime soon, the Hammers have to ensure they have better replacement options waiting in the wings for that to be the case.