Declan Rice predicts who is the ‘future of English football’

The West Ham captain was full of praise for his international midfield partner

Alex Pattle
Wednesday 28 September 2022 12:03 BST
West Ham midfielder Declan Rice in action for England against Germany
West Ham midfielder Declan Rice in action for England against Germany (Getty Images)

Declan Rice has said Jude Bellingham can be ‘the future of English football for the next 15 years’.

Bellingham started next to Rice at the centre of England’s midfield in their Nations League matches against Italy and Germany this week, and many observers felt that the 19-year-old did enough to secure a place in the Three Lions’ starting XI for their World Cup-opener against Iran in November.

England fell to a 1-0 defeat by Italy on Friday (23 September) before drawing 3-3 with Germany in a thrilling game on Monday (26 September), but Bellingham’s performances marked some of the more positive aspects of the international break for Gareth Southgate’s team.

“I don’t think I’ve seen anyone as good as he is for 19,” Rice said of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Bellingham, per the Mirror. “I look at a lot of 19-year-olds, whether it’s at a club, around the world, around the country. To have the whole package is a hard thing… and I feel like he’s got that.”

West Ham captain Rice, who is still just 23 himself, added of Bellingham: “He’s 19, but he’s got the body of a 28-year-old. He’s a man; he thinks like a man, plays like a man and shows personality and character. I’ve been around and played so many more games than he has in my career, but you can just tell as a 19-year-old what he brings to the team already – the energy he’s got.

“He can play in a holding role, he can play as a No 8, he can play as a No 10. He’s a man, you can see it when he plays for Dortmund. As a 19-year-old, you’re normally scared to talk to the referee, but he’s in the referee’s face demanding answers, demanding decisions, and he leaves himself on the pitch constantly.

“He really pushes you on the pitch. We push each other on and it’s a privilege to play next to him. Every time I play with Jude, we’re building that connection and I say to him: ‘You go and bomb on and do your attacking stuff, and I’ll sit here and defend for you.’ So, we’re getting that good connection, he’s great to play with.”

Declan Rice (right) with Jude Bellingham after England’s Euro 2020 quarter-final win (Nick Potts/PA)
Declan Rice (right) with Jude Bellingham after England’s Euro 2020 quarter-final win (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Archive)

Many fans are now calling for Bellingham to start alongside Rice against Iran on 21 November, when England begin their Qatar World Cup campaign. However, Rice believes that Bellingham will feature prominently for the Three Lions throughout the rest of his career, regardless of what happens in England’s Group B-opener.

“Hopefully, he keeps flourishing,” Rice said. “He’s the future of English football to come for the next 15 years.”

Bellingham’s appearances for England against Italy and Germany saw the teenager earn his 16th and 17th international caps, while Rice has played for the Three Lions 34 times, having previously represented the Republic of Ireland on three occasions.

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