West Ham summer signing Nikola Vlasic has heaped praise on teammate Declan Rice, as he looks to impress alongside him against Genk on Thursday night.
Hammers boss David Moyes confirmed Vlasic will start his third consecutive Europa League game this week. Vlasic has earned the majority of his minutes in European competition since signing from CSKA Moscow in the summer.
West Ham are currently top of Europa League Group H, having won both of their fixtures so far.
The Hammers’ remarkable form is in part thanks to Declan Rice. The midfielder has scored in both games, and was man of the match against Dinamo Zagreb.
Vlasic revealed Rice was the player he was most impressed with at West Ham without hesitation, per football.london.
“When I talked with my friends I knew he [Rice] was a good player,” he said.
“But when I watched TV I thought ‘Okay he is a defensive midfield player and maybe he is not that quick or fast, maybe that is a minus for him’ but he is so fast and so quick and even with the ball this season I think he is much better and improved in attack.”
Rice has gained ratings of 8.06 and 8.09 for the previous two Europa League fixtures, according to WhoScored.
The midfielder has impressed time and time again over the last year for club and country. As such, it is clear to see why Vlasic would be pleased to share the field with him.
“He is unbelievable for me, he has impressed me the most,” he added.
Vlasic biding his time
While Vlasic has featured regularly in the Europa League, he has had to bide his time with limited opportunities in the Premier League.
Nonetheless, the attacker trusts the process David Moyes has in place.
“He brought me here and knows what is best for me and he’s aware of the period of adaptation especially to a team that is together like this team. He knows what is best and how much I should and should not play.”
The Croatian will of course want to make his mark on the Premier League. But Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma were slowly introduced to top-flight English football at West Ham, and are now thriving because of it.
Should Vlasic continue to perform in European competition, it should not be long until he gets chance to earn his stripes in the Premier League.