• By Yann Tear

Hammers boss says only Declan Rice can resolve international dilemma


West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini says Declan Rice has to ‘listen to his heart’ in deciding whether to play for England or the Republic of Ireland.

The teenager has represented Ireland at youth level and already earned three caps in friendlies, but has been omitted from Martin O’Neill’s latest Nations League squad, as he considers his future.

Rice – the current Young Hammer of the Year, who can operate in central defence or midfield - has been approached by England and is being given more time to make up his mind.

Pellegrini believes his player is good enough to play for England, at his present rate of progress, and does not necessarily have to plump for Ireland as a softer option. But at the same time, he says it must be a matter for Rice himself.

“He has a big problem, but I think that his heart must decide – if he feels more Irish or more English,” said the new Hammers manager.

“He’s 19 years old and his future will allow him to play for England or Ireland. Maybe for him it can be more easy in Ireland, but [it depends] if you trust in yourself and you feel you are an English player.

“In England there is big competition, but I think he is able to take that challenge. It’s a player that always listens to what you are saying to him

“But it’s a personal decision and it’s very difficult to give advice.”

Pellegrini says Rice is manging his career well – already having key attributes for a future star.

“Physically, when you are 19 years old, maybe you need more strength, but he’s a strong player, a good thinking player and I think he has a big future,” he said.”

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