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Rice was picked up and taken to West Ham U23s in Liverpool’s first game but returns as MVP

In DECLAN RICE’s first start at Anfield, he came on as a half-time substitute and then fell to West Ham’s under-23s.

On Saturday, the English star will play as arguably the most valued player on the Kop pitch.

Rice was substituted at half-time in his first appearance at Anfield

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Rice was substituted at half-time in his first appearance at AnfieldCredit: ALAMY
The 23-year-old now returns to Liverpool FC as one of the most expensive players on the pitch

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The 23-year-old now returns to Liverpool FC as one of the most expensive players on the pitchCredit: ALAMY

They could champion Mo Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Diogo Jota, but at 23, rice is younger than everyone.

For many he will soon be the best midfielder in the worldif he isn’t already.

Looking back on that miserable opening day of the 2018/19 season shows just how far the 23-year-old has come.

Rice had already played 32 first-team games when Manuel Pellegrini started his first game as Irons manager.

The Chilean started him alongside Jack Wilshere and Mark Noble at Liverpool but with his side already 2-0 down at the break he opted to knock out the youngest of the three.

The Reds won 4-0, with Sadio Mane scoring twice, and after the game Pellegrini sent Rice to the reserve.

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Rice’s reaction shows why he is one of England’s best players at the moment.

Instead of sulking like many would have, he displayed the kind of attitude that serves as a shining example to any youngster coping with a setback out there.

Liam Manning, currently the boss of MK Dons though west hamThe U23s coach at the time recalled: “Dec was the first to come to practice and take sacks full of balls outside.

“He had the same enthusiasm, the same standards and the same respect for the group and the staff. He also ended up being the one who helped load the equipment.”

It wasn’t long before Rice reclaimed his place in the Hammers’ first-team under Pellegrini, and under David Moyes he has taken his game to new heights.

He was the driving force behind West Ham’s Champions League bid and some believe the East Londoners’ chances of keeping him depend on whether or not they qualify for Europe’s premier club competition.

A win today would go a long way, unlikely though that seems given the recent form of Jurgen Klopp’s quadruple chasers.

The Reds, who won the Carabao Cup last weekend, have lost just once since their 3-2 defeat at West Ham in November.

And with new signing Luis Diaz fitting seamlessly into an already daunting attack, it’s hard to imagine ex-Everton boss Moyes delivering a shock.

If it happens anyway, Rice will no doubt have played a significant role — unlike his forgettable August afternoon four years ago.

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https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/17847452/west-ham-declan-rice-valuable-player-liverpool/ Rice was picked up and taken to West Ham U23s in Liverpool’s first game but returns as MVP

Ashley

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