Manuel Pellegrini hailed Declan Rice’s maturity as the teenager continues to grow into his role as a deep-lying central midfielder.
Rice has started each of West Ham United’s last 12 Premier League matches, starring in a vital position that links the defence with the attack.
In Saturday’s win over Crystal Palace, the 19-year-old showed off his full range of abilities, tackling immaculately and passing the ball with outstanding vision and technique, impressing his manager hugely yet again.
As with every player, I think he must continue to try and improve with every game he plays
“I think that Declan has a great future,” said Pellegrini. “He’s a very mature player for 19-years-old and it’s not easy. He needs to learn a lot about how to play better in that position.
“But in every ball, he gives his all for 95 minutes. He has good recovery and a good technique, so I think we are seeing a player who we will talk about a lot in the future years.
“I think that he must try to have a better technique. He plays in a tactical position, maybe the most tactical position on the team because he must be involved in defending and covering all the space in front of the defensive line and on the other side he must adapt with good technique.
“I think he must have both things and he will do it better with every game he plays.
“Every player who is here has good people around them. As with every player, I think he must continue to try and improve with every game he plays.”
Rice’s development is all the more impressive when you consider the challenge he faced in the very first game of the season.
The No41 was replaced at half-time in the defeat at Liverpool, but shrugged off that disappointment to thrive on his return to the team in the 3-1 win at Everton a month later.
“In the first game we played very badly, the complete team, so I told him it was not his fault,” Pellegrini revealed. “I was just arriving here and I wanted to look at other options.
“He knew at that time that he would return to the team and he returned a couple of games later.
“I think he has a very good relationship with me and he understood I was just arriving and we needed to make a change and he didn’t have any problem.”
Rice is surely now one of the first names on the West Ham teamsheet and Pellegrini pointed to his youth as a positive as the Irons tackle their busiest and most physically-demanding period of the Premier League season.
“I think he deserves to play in every game,” Pellegrini confirmed. “In December when we have to play seven games and January when we have to play another six, in some games maybe he will have to rest, but he is 19-years-old and at that age you are never tired.
“You can play two games a week and after that you can go and dance!”