Declan Rice offers classy response to James McClean's 'overrated' claim

  • Declan Rice labelled "overrated" and "not world class" by former teammate James McClean
  • McClean bitter at Rice's defection to England in 2019
  • Rice refused to engage in war of words and offered wise response
Declan Rice was labelled "overrated" by former teammate James McClean
Declan Rice was labelled "overrated" by former teammate James McClean / Alex Grimm/GettyImages

Declan Rice refused to engage in a war of words with former teammate James McClean, who recently labelled the Arsenal midfielder as “overrated” and “not world-class”.

Rice has blossomed into one of very best at his position since changing national allegiances from the Republic of Ireland to England in 2019. After succeeding Mark Noble as West Ham's captain, Rice earned a whopping £105m move to Arsenal last summer having guided the Hammers to Europa Conference League glory.

The Englishman's debut season at the Emirates was an undisputed success, with Rice particularly starring in a more advanced #8 position as he recorded the highest single-season goal return of his career to date. Rice recorded 15 Premier League goal contributions, including seven goals, and played a key role in Arsenal recording their highest points tally since the Invincibles campaign of 2003/04.

Rice would've been a strong contender for PFA Player of the Year honours had the Gunners pipped Manchester City to the league title. His quality can't be denied, but a slow start to Euro 2024 with the Three Lions has seen the Arsenal star come under heavy scrutiny, and he was on the receiving end of some bitter criticism from former Ireland teammate McClean.

Declan Rice offers classy response to James McClean's 'overrated' claim

Rice pictured with James McClean while representing Ireland / FRANCK FIFE/GettyImages

Speaking during his first appearance on RTE's Euro 2024 show, McClean didn't hold back in his assessment of Rice. He said that Germany's Jamal Musiala was a talent who "justified the hype" before adding "but I feel Declan Rice is very overrated".

"Don't get me wrong, I think he’s a very good footballer, but the way the English media wax lyrical about him is completely over the top," he added.

McClean went on to say that Rice is not "world class" because he doesn't get into every starting XI in the world. His primary reason for his overrated claim was seemingly that Rice doesn't dictate games as the likes of Rodri and Toni Kroos can. McClean may not be wrong there, but is 'dictating the game' the definitive factor in assessing a midfielder's world-class status? Rice, as he proved at Arsenal last season, is much more than a controller and, as the Irish pundit put it, someone who "sees danger and puts out fires".

Rice may have endured a tough start to the Euros with England producing two drab performances to start the tournament, but the Arsenal midfielder offered a classy response when McClean's assessment was put to him.

“Do you know what? I played with James for Ireland for three games and I got on with him really well. I am not going to sit here and slag him off. I thought he was a really top guy," Rice said ahead of England's clash with Slovenia (via the Irish Independent).

"When I left Ireland to come to England, I heard a few things he was obviously not happy about. He made comments a few years ago." McClean had said back in 2019 that those not “proud” to play for Ireland should “sod off and play for someone else”.

Rice generously went on to note that McClean has "had a great career himself" having amassed over 100 caps for his country, and refused to bite back at the Irishman's bitter claims.

“I’ve known him, I’ve played with him, he’s entitled to his opinion and I’ve had to fight a load of those opinions from other people before," he added.

Attaboy, Dec.