McClean divides opinion with 'Declan Rice is overrated' comments

McClean divides opinion with 'Declan Rice is overrated' comments

Former Ireland player James McClean has created a firestorm online by claiming that Arsenal and England midfielder Declan Rice is overrated.

Rice has become one of the most recognisable names in world football in his position since breaking onto the scene with West Ham all those years ago.

The former West Ham captain helped his old club win the Europa League in 2022, and after this, he secured a big-money move to Arsenal that same summer.

Rice has gone from strength to strength since signing for Arsenal, helping the north London club become one of the best teams in England.

On the international front, the 25-year-old, who once played for Ireland, is now one of the mainstays of Gareth Southgate's England side at Euro 2024.

Many people rate Rice highly and recognise how important he is to Arsenal and England; however, McClean isn't one of those people. The former Ireland player believes that Rice is overrated and not world-class.

"For me, he’s not world-class. To me, world-class is someone who gets to know every side of the world. I don’t think he does that," said McClean, speaking as a pundit on RTÉ Sport's coverage of Euro 2024 this week.

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

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

Midfielders can come in all shapes and sizes, with many offering different traits. For example, Rodri for Spain and Manchester City is an excellent controller for his club and country, while Toni Kroos, formerly of Real Madrid and currently with Germany, is an excellent passer of the ball. Rice, for example, is an all-action midfielder who is very different from these two players.

McClean was challenged on his comparisons of Kroos and Rodri to Rice and refused to accept that the three are vastly different. The Derry native maintains that if Rice wants to be considered among the best, he should be able to do what Kroos and Rodri do for their club and country.

"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 getting the ball on the half-turn, playing passes forward, and dictating the play. I don't think he does that," added McClean.

"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."

Many have slammed McClean for his comments, while others have defended the Derry man's opinions.

"Only people who think he’s 'world-class' are England and Arsenal fans. He’s a very good player—world-class? Definitely not," said one user on X. While another offered an alternative take, saying, "All these Irish fans saying Rice isn’t world-class are absolutely hilarious because I can 100% guarantee you that if Rice were in an Ireland shirt and you’d actually qualified for the Euros, most of you would absolutely be saying he is world-class! I've got a little doubt about that!"

Fans eager to prove their views won't have long to wait. Rice and England face Denmark at 5 pm later today.