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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 28 March, 2020

'He reminds me of Kante and Makelele': Rice earns high praise from West Ham team-mate

Michail Antonio said he believes Declan Rice is good enough to play for Ireland or England.

The 19-year-old scored his first Premier League goal yesterday.
The 19-year-old scored his first Premier League goal yesterday.
Image: Steven Paston

A DAY AFTER scoring his first Premier League goal for West Ham, Declan Rice has been the subject of high praise from Hammers team-mate Michail Antonio.

The 19-year-old scored the winner against Arsenal at the London Stadium on Saturday, delivering a fine strike from close range to defeat Unai Emery’s men.

The midfielder recently agreed a new long-term contract with West Ham until 2024 and said he is close to a decision regarding his international future over whether to represent Ireland or England.

Antonio said that he had discussed the situation with Rice, acknowledging that his colleague did have a hard choice to make having represented Ireland at underage level, as well as in three friendlies in 2018.

“It is a difficult situation,” Antonio said speaking on Goals on Sunday. “I can’t put myself in his shoes.

“I’ve spoken to him about it, he has got a bit of loyalty to Ireland. Obviously, he has played through the younger ranks, so he has got that bit of loyalty to them. But when England come knocking, it is hard to ignore.

“I think he’s doing the right thing by taking his time but I believe that it doesn’t matter who he picks, he is going to be playing for either team.”

The winger reflected that Rice was a unique prospect, comparing him with some of the Premier League’s greatest holding midfielders in recent years.

“I don’t think there are many players better than him in that defensive, holding position,” Antonio said.

“Holding midfield is his best position because he just breaks everything up. He reminds me of Kante and Makelele. He’s right up there. He breaks things up and get the team ticking.”

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Aaron Gallagher

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