Jamie Redknapp heaped praise on West Ham midfielder Declan Rice while arguing that the 20-year-old could be the answer to England’s problems in defence.
The pundit suggested that Rice was capable of playing as a centre-back for his nation, and shared you just had to watch him play for the Hammers to realise how good he is.
Redknapp listed off several flattering statistics, for example, the fact only two midfielders in the Premier League have made more tackles than Rice this season, in order to support his case that the midfield enforcer could be England’s ideal centre-back.
“He’d be more than happy to get on the ball and has the intelligence needed to form an effective centre back partnership,” wrote Redknapp in a column for the Daily Mail.
“Watch West Ham and you’ll see this young man is excellent at what he does. In the Premier League this season, only two midfielders have made more tackles than Rice.
“He also ranks fourth for interceptions and seventh for ball recoveries. I believe he could apply those talents to central defence, too, while being the proficient passer Gareth Southgate wants.”
Rice has played as a centre-back before, so it’s not like Redknapp is barking up the wrong tree to suggest Gareth Southgate play the 20-year-old in the heart of his defence. In fact, Rice has been deployed 15 times as a centre-back in the Premier League, as per Transfermarkt, with all those outings coming in the 2017/18 season, and while there were a couple of mistakes, notably in the 4-1 loss to Arsenal, he generally proved himself to be a good enough centre-back to feature in England’s top-flight. However, Rice does seem to be flourishing in midfield for the Hammers and it would be more beneficial to the London club if Southgate didn’t opt to switch Rice’s position. After all the 20-year-old is still learning how to be the best midfielder he can be and playing in that position at international level is no doubt seeing him pick up vital experience he can use. Rice has featured eight times in the Premier League this season and when you considered he has averaged a very impressive rating of 7.05 on WhoScored, it’s hard to see Pellegrini moving the 20-year-old back into defence. So it’s unlikely he’ll want Southgate to make a change regarding the Hammers ace.