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“Best player on the pitch”

Former England forward Joe Cole has praised reported Arsenal and Chelsea target Declan Rice’s performance in the Three Lions’ win over Italy on Thursday, March 23.

Rice scored the opener for England at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in their opening game of the UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers. The West Ham United midfielder got on the end of a rebound following a corner and put it neatly in the back of the net.

Harry Kane then scored the second for England, becoming the country’s all-time top goalscorer with 54 goals.

Italy got one back via Mateo Retegui in the second half. The Three Lions were reduced to 10 men after Luke Shaw’s sending-off but managed to hold on to get the win.

After the win, Cole heaped praise on Rice, who has been linked with a summer move to Arsenal and Chelsea. The former Liverpool forward said (via Metro):

“Declan Rice was the best player on the pitch by a mile. It was terrible defending for the goal, but he’s alive to it. But I’ve got to say I’m baffled by Italy’s defending. This is a country known for their defending but it was unacceptable from Italy in that first half.”

He added:

“Most of the defenders just switch off. But Rice deserves credit because it takes it like a centre-forward, he did really well there. If it’s a centre-forward we’re talking about instinct. He was outstanding from start to finish.”

Rice was brilliant in midfield for England against Italy, making four clearances, one tackle and one block, while also completing 86% of his passes.

Former France midfielder urges Declan Rice to join Arsenal over Chelsea

Former Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder Emmanuel Petit believes the Gunners would be a good fit for Rice.

Both clubs are highly interested in signing the English midfielder in the summer (via Chelsea signed Enzo Fernandez from SL Benfica for a British-record transfer fee of £105 million in January but could still make an attempt to sign Rice.

However, Petit believes that the West Ham captain should move to the Emirates instead. He told beIN Sports:

“Declan, if you’re listening, my message is very simple. If you want to improve – you’re already a great player – and win silverware, you have to come [to] Arsenal! I’m sorry to West Ham fans, but I think there is no choice for him but to come here [the Emirates Stadium].”

Rice, 24, has made 229 senior appearances for the Hammers, scoring 12 goals and providing 13 assists.

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