Manuel Lanzini has tipped Declan Rice to eventually become better than former West Ham midfielder Javier Mascherano, which is high praise indeed.
The 20-year-old has played in 26 of West Ham’s 29 Premier League games this season, and has done so with great aplomb, earning rave reviews for his impressive performances both on and off the ball where he has shown maturity beyond his years.
Despite coming through the ranks as a defender, Rice has been utilised as a defensive central midfielder by Manuel Pellegrini this season, a position in which he has shown a superb reading of the game despite his relative inexperience.
Speaking about the precocious talent, Manuel Lanzini likened Rice to former West Ham midfielder Javier Mascherano, who had a brief spell in East London following a controversial and rule-breaking transfer from Corinthians in 2006.
“Declan for me is the hero of the team,” Lanzini told West Ham’s official website.
“He looks like he’s got everything… what are we waiting for?”@Ianwright0 believes West Ham’s Declan Rice deserves a call-up for Gareth Southgate's next England squad.
— BBC 5 Live Sport (@5liveSport) March 4, 2019
“He is a very young player, but it is as if he has played 200 games. He is amazing.
“I like to play with him because he has good touch, he has good recovery, I think he is one of the best players in the Premier League.
“He is [like Javier Mascherano]. I played with Mascherano [at international level] and he is a very good player.”
Mascherano moved on to play for Liverpool for three-and-a-half years before going on to be a regular for European giants Barcelona, and Lanzini reckons that Rice could go on to be better than his fellow countryman.
“He is 20 and I think Declan needs to continue like this,” the Argentine added.
“If he stays focused and I think he can be better than Mascherano.”
Rice, who recently switched international allegiances from the Republic of Ireland to England, scored the second goal of his career at the weekend in the 2-0 win over Newcastle United at the London Stadium.