West Ham's Declan Rice has 'urgent' desire to play in the Champions League – ESPN

Declan Rice believes he has become one of the best players in the world, and stressed his “urgent” desire to play Champions League football and win trophies.
The West Ham midfielder was named Premier League Player of the Year at Thursday’s London Football Awards after a fine season to date as the Hammers sit just two points outside the top four with 11 games remaining.
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David Moyes’ side narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification last season and when asked how desperate he is to reach Europe’s top competition, Rice told ESPN: “It is as urgent as possible. I feel like, not only for me, that’s for every young player as well.
“We were really close with West Ham at the minute and last season, it was gutting to lose out on it last year but we are pushing. Look, we’ll keep going. Champions League is a big aim of mine and hopefully one day I can play in it and do well.
“I feel like I am one of the established top players around the world. I am only 23 so I am still young — that’s what I mean in that sense — but in terms of my playing ability and the way I’ve performed consistently, I see myself as an established player now who has got good experience and can play at any level if required.”
Rice has a contract at West Ham until 2024 with the club retaining an option to extend by a further year but there has been speculation Chelsea, Manchester United or Manchester City could test their resolve to keep the midfielder, who has been valued in excess of £100m.
“You hear those numbers and personally for me it is crazy to hear,” Rice said. “All I can do is go out there and perform, regardless of the price tag. I just need focus on playing well and performing at the best level I can.
“I was released by Chelsea at 14, that was a setback. I was nearly released by West Ham at 16, that was nearly a setback and I’ve had big games where we’ve lost like the Euros final [England were beaten by Italy on penalties]. It really spurs you on to want to improve.
“As a young player, I see friends that are close to me, big players winning big trophies, you want to be a part of that. You want to be remembered in this career for what you’ve won. Hopefully these moments I am having now can spur me on to be even better.”
Rice explained why England’s run to the final of Euro 2020 has been the catalyst to take his game to new heights.
“In the final, after I had my first touch, I knew I was going to have a good game because I was so up for it: driving with the ball, winning tackles, making good passes forward,” he said.
“Even though we lost that game and it was probably the worst moment of my career, I took a positive from it that I can perform like that on the big stage.
“I remember our first game at Newcastle this season. I’d only had a two-week holiday. I played the first half and wasn’t at the races but the second half I took it to the levels where I was in the Euros. The manager pulled me and said ‘that’s where you need to stay at.’ That’s what I’ve tried to do this season.”
Rice added he has believed in himself more this season.
“My brothers have always told me that my ability is incredible and I just need to show it more on the football pitch. In the first couple of years of my career at West Ham I was probably holding myself back because I was a young player, I didn’t want to make a mistake. I wanted to be on the good side of the fans, I wanted to be on the manager’s side.
“I feel like since the Euros when I played really well and it has really spurred me on. And this season I’ve kind of thought ‘you know what, I’ve got all this ability. I’m going to go out there and show it.” What you are seeing now is only a little bit of what’s to come as well.
Rice also hinted at the possibility of taking over the West Ham captaincy from Mark Noble when he retires at the end of the season.
“Me and Mark are always having this conversation,” Rice said. “He mentions it to me sometimes that I’m going to obviously have to deal with all the stuff that’s behind the scenes. He dealt with it young as well. I’ll be learning on the job but I’ll be ready for it and that’s part of being a good captain: to help the team out and help the club.
“I’m sure he’ll always be a phone call away from me if I need any help anyway. And hopefully we still see him around the club.”
James Olley was on the judging panel at the London Football Awards.

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