I THOUGHT Graeme Souness’ criticism of Declan Rice was quite harsh.
Graeme’s opinion is that to be a world-class midfielder, you need to create and score more goals. He feels Declan does not do that.
For me, Declan is world class. This kid plays so many games a year and is still a young man getting used to that.
I know the average football fan will say, “he gets paid to do that’.
No, he gets paid to play a season of football, not a season and a half in one campaign.
And despite all that, he is still West Ham’s best player and one of England’s best players.
He is only going to get better. He has a ceiling that could continue to rise.
I have seen people say, ‘I wouldn’t pay £80million for him’. Come on, give me a break. He is a proper player.
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When players like Rice burst onto the scene, we all say this kid is great, but if they drop below an eight out of 10, then they are not good enough. It is crazy.
Rice would have definitely seen what Souness said about him and he responded really well to it in a press conference before England’s win over Italy. A mature answer.
As a player, when you hear or see things like that, you think, ‘Does this actually impact on me and my life?’
But personally, I don’t think Declan would have been too bothered by it.
Why? Because Declan — born in 1999 — did not grow up watching Souness, who retired in 1991.
I like Graeme, he is a good pundit and a top man but I don’t think players in the modern game hold too much value on his opinion.
He is a professional who had a lot of success in his own career.
But the guys nowadays would be more fussed hearing from those they remember watching play, like a Yaya Toure or a Steven Gerrard.
Dec probably mirrored his game on those two.
I remember when Thierry Henry mentioned my name on Sky Sports in my first season in the Premier League, that was like God speaking to me.
I will never forget it, because he was someone I grew up watching and that meant a lot.
If Dion Dublin — who is a good friend of mine and was a good player — had said it, it wouldn’t have meant that much because I never grew up wanting to be him. That’s just how players think.
In the NBA, people debate LeBron James or Michael Jordan, but the game has moved on — and it is the same with football.
The likes of Souness, for all his talent and success, backed up his game by being a tough guy with crunching tackles, half of which would not be legal today.
This may sound like a wild statement, but Souness in his pomp would not have been able to keep up with today’s Premier League midfielders.
On a purely fitness level, James Milner at his current age would run all over prime Souness.
The game now is more athletic. Look at the pitches, the money, the analytics.
Souness’ era had a big drinking culture, yet these lads now don’t even go on holiday, and when they do they are training at the same time.
Look at the young boys like Jude Bellingham. Irrespective of their ability, just the physical dominance of these lads, they are worlds apart.
They’re all monsters, thoroughbred horses.
Just to be clear, like Graeme, this is just me giving my opinion.
But it is very easy to define what you think a world-class midfielder looks like based on experiences from decades in the past.
Times have changed, and so has football.