Pellgrini praises Rice’s ability to focus on matters on the pitch

West Ham manager says 19-year-old has not let international saga impinge on his play

West Ham’s Declan Rice celebrates after their Premier League win over Southampton. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters

West Ham’s Declan Rice celebrates after their Premier League win over Southampton. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters

 

Manuel Pellegrini has hailed West Ham teenager Declan Rice’s ability to dismiss any off-field distractions and keep producing top-level performances.

Rice ran West Ham’s midfield in Thursday’s 2-1 Premier League win at Southampton, that pushed the Hammers into ninth place in the table.

Rice continues to wrestle with his international future, with England attempting to prise him away from the Republic of Ireland, while talks over a new West Ham contract have been put on hold until the summer.

The 19-year-old shrugged off all of that, however, to get the better of Mario Lemina and Oriol Romeu all night in an accomplished showing, leaving manager Pellegrini highly impressed.

“I see Declan work every day and so it is difficult for me to be surprised by him now,” said Pellegrini.

“He always wants to learn more, he hasn’t had any problems, he has just been focusing on playing.

“Then the media started about his contract and his money, but he has never had any problem in that sense. He is always, always working hard and he is just 19 years old.

“He’s a player who always wants to learn more, and he has got such a bright future ahead of him.”

Felipe Anderson bagged a six-minute brace to steal victory for the Hammers at St Mary’s, the Brazil midfielder taking his goal tally to seven in his last nine matches.

The 25-year-old oozed class and always had time on the ball in the final third, while Rice commanded control of the base of West Ham’s midfield operation.

Pellegrini was left delighted the east Londoners could step up to ninth in the league at the halfway stage, having lost their first four matches of the campaign.

But the Chilean boss insisted he had never expected more than that, especially given the strength of the Premier League.

“Really I never expect before the season where we must be. We must go game by game and we have to demonstrate in every game what we can do,” said Pellegrini.

“Every team invests well in players, this league is so strong.

“So before the season you just have to take it game by game, but always be ambitious.”

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