West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini believes Declan Rice is England’s best holding midfielder and a player who is improving with every game.
The Hammers host Crystal Palace on Saturday looking to build on a good start to the season which has seen them climb to fifth in the Premier League with 12 points from seven games.
Rice has played every minute of those league games and he also started both of England’s Euro 2020 qualifiers last month.
It has been an impressive rise to prominence for the 20-year-old, who decided to represent England rather than the Republic of Ireland last season, and Pellegrini feels there is still much more to come from the midfielder.
“He’s progressing every game that he plays, because he is progressing every training session,” Pellegrini said.
“He’s always trying to learn, he’s always trying to improve, he always listens.
“So I think that is a player that – I can’t say he will have a brilliant future – but he is pressing and at this moment he is the best holding midfielder of England.”
West Ham’s visitors this weekend have also had a good start to the season, including beating Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford, and Pellegrini is expecting a difficult challenge against Roy Hodgson’s Eagles.
The Chilean said: “I think Crystal Palace has started the same as us with a good season, with good players and they have also important victories, especially away from home against Manchester United.
“They also lost two points in the last minute of the last game, so they will be as always a very difficult team because they have very good players, especially in attack.
“They have a lot of good players that can make a difference.”
West Ham have lost just once in the league so far – a 5-0 mauling by Manchester City in their opening game – but have bounced back from that to sit above the likes of Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United in the table.
However, Pellegrini would rather focus on the next game – and continuing their good form – than bask in what they have already achieved.
He said: “One of the things that we are always talking (about) with the players is to talk about the next game.
“The next game is Crystal Palace. After that I just said we need to play 30 games more to finish the season.
“I think we must be very clear. Why we are winning is because we are playing all together, because we are playing with high pace, because we are doing things well.
“You must continue doing (that) because if you won the last game that doesn’t mean that you are going to win the next one.
“The next one is where we must demonstrate what we can do.”
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P