Manuel Pellegrini believes that 19-year-old Declan Rice is good enough to feature internationally for England. Rice’s international status has been the subject of hot debate this week, after he was approached by England manager Gareth Southgate.
Rice has featured three times for the Republic of Ireland; he has yet to play a competitive game for Martin O’Neill’s side, therefore is eligible to change allegiance. Rice can play centre back, but is also adept at holding midfield, a position he played during Tuesday night’s 3-1 Carabao Cup win over AFC Wimbledon.
Despite being born in London, Rice is eligible for the Republic through Irish grandparents on his father’s side of the family.
Speaking on the situation Pellegrini told the media:
“Declan has a big problem. But I think that his heart must decide if he feels more Irish or more English. Maybe for him it can be more easy to play for Ireland but if you trust in yourself and you feel that you are an English player …
“It is a personal decision. It is very difficult to give advice but I am always speaking with him because he is young and he has a big future. I speak with him about a lot of different issues.
“He is a player that is completing his development in a physical way. He is a strong player, a good technical player. With England he will have big competition but I think he is able to take that challenge – that’s without me giving him a decision. He must take the decision himself.”
In reaction to the public speculation, Rice was omitted from O’Neill’s squad for the Uefa Nations League game against Wales in Cardiff next Thursday. The player requested time to consider his options, however, the Ireland manager has blamed the influence of Rice’s agent.
Southgate will announce his England squad on Thursday for 8 September’s Nations League game with Spain. Given that Rice has only played 46 minutes in the league this season – after being taken off at half time against Liverpool - it looks unlikely he’ll make the squad for this upcoming round of internationals.
Read more from Jack Kavanagh at Culture Hash