Declan Rice has leapt to the defence of boyhood friend Mason Mount by insisting he can play alongside Jack Grealish for England.
Midfielders Mount and Grealish have been viewed as direct rivals for a spot in the Three Lions’ starting XI, leading to debate about who Gareth Southgate should pick.
But the pair both lined up in the victory over Republic of Ireland on Thursday, with Chelsea star Mount fielded in central midfield and Aston Villa captain Grealish on the left flank.
The latter hit out at the “annoying” criticism of Mount after the 3-0 win, describing the 21-year-old as a “terrific” player.
And Three Lions midfielder Rice has echoed Grealish’s comments, claiming Mount would be an asset to any Premier League team as well as the England set-up.
Addressing criticism of his former Chelsea academy teammate, Rice said: “We don’t speak about it but it is very harsh.
“I know what his mentality is like. I know how driven he is. It is no surprise that Gareth picks him, Frank [Lampard] picks him and if you gave every Premier League manager the chance, they would pick him as well.”
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The West Ham star added: “If you look at Jack and Mase, there will always be comparisons but they are playing in two different parts of the pitch.
“Mason now at Chelsea is playing as an attacking eight and Jack is playing off the left [at Villa] and we saw the other night they can both play in the same team and they are both great players we should be valuing.”
Rice also praised Harry Kane’s leadership qualities as the Three Lions skipper prepares to win his 50th cap for his country.
“With H, you feel his presence all the time,” the 21-year-old said. “If you look at the other night, he was involved but beforehand he is in the changing room, getting everyone ready and talking to the lads individually.
“For a youngster like me, who is aspiring to be a future captain, you have to look at what he does.
“He might not be the loudest on the pitch, but the way he takes the ball under pressure and gets defences scared, he is a real leader.”
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