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Declan Rice fires back at James McClean with surprising response after 'overrated' and 'not world class' comments

Declan Rice fires back at James McClean with surprising response after 'overrated' and 'not world class' comments

James McClean doesn't think the hype around England midfielder Declan Rice is justified.

England and Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice has jumped to praise James McClean after his former Republic of Ireland teammate called him "overrated" and "not world class".

Rice, who has Irish paternal grandparents, played for the Republic of Ireland at various youth age groups and went on to make his senior debut in March 2018, playing three times for the senior side under Martin O’Neill.

Having impressed on the international stage, the midfielder was then approached to play for England, his birth country, before switching allegiance to the Three Lions in February 2019.

Shortly after committing his allegiance to England, a number of Ireland players voiced their thoughts on Rice's decision, including McClean, who told anybody other Irish player tempted to follow in his footsteps to "sod off and play for someone else".

McClean added: "He said he was a proud Irishman. Then he said he was a proud Englishman. If he's both... good luck to him but I don't buy it. I think you're either one or the other."

Five years after those comments were made and the former Stoke City and West Brom winger delivered a no-nonsense assessment of Rice after Germany's 2-0 win over Hungary.

Speaking whilst on punditry duty for RTÉ Sport, he said: "I think 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.

"For me, he’s not world class. To me world class is someone who gets in every side in the world. I don’t think he does that.

"I don't think he gets in the Man City side ahead of Rodri. I know Toni Kroos is now retiring, but to me Toni Kroos is world class. [Kroos] dictates the game, Rodri dictates the game, I don't think Rice does that."

McClean added: "He's not someone who is going get on the half turn and play passes forward. He is very good at what he does.

"They play the same role, so why can't they do the same things? If you're going to give me this much hype and reputation, then surely he should be able to do what they do? That's get the ball on the half turn, play passes forward, and dictate the play. I don't think he does that.

"He's good at what he does. He sees danger and puts out fires, but for the hype that surrounds him, I don't think it's justified."

Image credit: Getty
Image credit: Getty

A week later and Rice was asked about McClean's comments ahead of England's final Euro 2024 group game against Slovenia – and it sounds like he's taken it well.

He did, however, mention that the criticism may have come from "bitterness" towards him not playing for Ireland.

“Do you know what? I played with James for Ireland for three games and I got on with him really well," Rice said via the Independent.

"I am not going to sit here and slag him off. I thought he was a really top guy. 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.

“It is what it is. I am not going to sit here and say anything about him. He’s had a great career himself - I think he is coming to the end of his career now and he’s got over a hundred caps for Ireland.

“It would be easy for me to sit here and say something back to him but, like I said, we are at opposite ends of our careers now - he’s 35 and I’m 25.

"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."

Rice added: “It might be a bit of bitterness towards me not playing for Ireland but I’ve not got a bad word to say about him, to be honest. I see the comments but I don’t try to put too much energy into it.

“It is what it is and you move on. You live and learn.”

Featured Image Credit: Getty Images - RTE Sport

Topics: Declan Rice, England, Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Arsenal, Premier League