Former West Ham star Jose Fonte knew Declan Rice would make it big, but one thing about his rise has surprised him.
Rice, who joined the Hammers after leaving Chelsea’s academy aged 14, has become one of England’s best midfielders – but it wasn’t always his destiny.
As he came through the ranks, Rice was highly-regarded, and Portugal international Fonte played alongside him for a year when he signed for the east Londoners in 2017.
The 22-year-old is already first-choice for Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions in defensive midfield and is being targeted for a summer transfer by Chelsea and Manchester United.
Fonte, though, believed he his long-term future was in a completely different role.
“Everybody acknowledged that he had the potential to go all the way. He was just trying to break in at the time [I was there],” the veteran centre-back told talkSPORT Breakfast.
“You know, he used to be a centre-back.
“I didn’t expect him to be a midfielder and when he started to play consistently in the midfield and doing so well it was kind of surprising because at centre-back he was great.
“I already said that as a centre-back he had a future, so it’s fantastic for him.
“I’m so pleased for Declan, he’s such a great professional, a hard-working player, and a good kid. He deserves all the credit that he’s getting.”
And while he only spent 13 months with West Ham, Fonte is delighted to see the club enjoying a successful few seasons in the Premier League.
He added: “From the time I was there, I think the progression has been fantastic. At the time it was kind of, a little bit of a mess. We had a few problems, obviously but I enjoyed my time at West Ham a lot.
“I’m pleased they are doing so well and I am pleased David Moyes is doing so well and that the club is going in the right direction, because it’s such a big club.
“It’s nice to see what they have managed to achieve and the way they are playing, the consistency, and how strong and solid they look.”
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