Wayne Rooney endorses Declan Rice as Arsenal ‘leader’

English great Wayne Rooney believes Declan Rice will prove to be a “great player” and a key leader for title-chasing Arsenal.

The 24-year-old midfielder completed his £105m transfer from West Ham to Emirates Stadium at the weekend, signing a long-term deal with the north London club.

Rice immediately departed with his new teammates for Washington, DC, where Arsenal kicked off their preseason tour of the United States against the Major League Soccer All-Stars.

DC United boss Rooney manages the hosts and believes Mikel Arteta’s men have secured a vital figure in their quest to win the Premier League.

“I think he could be the one that could… well, he has to be the leader now, really, I think about that Arsenal team,” he told the PA news agency.

“I saw Frank Lampard say that he felt Declan could captain Chelsea for the next 10 years if he went there.

“I think he can do that (for Arsenal) and he seems to have that character and I think he will be a great player for Arsenal.”

Rooney knows a thing or two about expectations after big money moves, but he flourished rather than withered after joining Manchester United from Everton in 2004.

The 37-year-old expects the same from Rice and fellow England midfielder Jude Bellingham, who last month completed his move to Real Madrid for an initial £88.5m which rises to £115m.

Asked how much he would pay in an era of eye-popping transfer fees, Rooney said with a laugh: “It’s crazy, isn’t it? Yeah, it’s crazy.

“The money players are being sold for right now is crazy and I guess that’s where the value is today.

“I think one day he’s just going to crash because he can’t go on like this, but that’s courage and good luck to both of us.

“Obviously they are two different types of players. Bellingham is very good athletically, a box-to-box midfielder, more attacking.

“Declan Rice is a powerful guy when he drives with the ball and he’s also very conscious defensively and tactically.

“I think they are two different players but both with a great future. The moves for the two of them are probably the right ones for them.”

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