Declan Rice reveals that he told Chelsea-linked Jude Bellingham to take centre stage for England at the World Cup yesterday.
As quoted by the Evening Standard, the West Ham United captain confessed to giving his compatriot a small pep talk just before the game against Iran on Monday.
Rice and Bellingham both lined up together in the heart of Gareth Southgate’s midfield.
The pair were playing together for only the 10th time, but have already established themselves as Southgate’s primary partnership in that position.
Rice and Bellingham rule
Despite their relatively inexperienced on field relationship, the duo worked as a dominative unit.
Whilst Rice sat back a little deeper, recycling possession and reducing Iran’s attacks, Bellingham bossed the rest of the park.
He swaggered past his opponents with poetic ease; a ballerina’s poise with a boxers’ precision.
His World Cup debut was accompanied by the teenager’s first senior international goal just after the half hour mark.
Perhaps it was the words of advice from his teammate pre-match that spurred Bellingham on to such a divine display.
“We have played together four or five times now. I said to him in the tunnel: ‘This is your stage, go and flourish. I’ll be there behind you to sweep up and give you the ball for you to go and do your thing’,” explained Rice.
This conversation ahead of the fixture clearly worked wonders.
Iran’s midfield could not compete with Southgate’s two thirsty Three Lions on a physical or technical scale.
It is likely the Rice-Bellingham combination will stay put throughout the World Cup and beyond for many years to come.
Not only for their country, but also potentially at club level as well.
Chelsea trying to recruit Rice and Bellingham
Chelsea reportedly have eyes on both of the young superstars, with visions of a midfield duet for the foreseeable future.
Rice could well make-up for the long-term absence of N’Golo Kante in that defensive role.
Mateo Kovacic’s ability on the ball may not be around for much longer, so Bellingham’s own skills would be a blessing.
This dream of Todd Boehly’s will not come cheap, yet sometimes the cost is worth the reward.