James McClean showed true feelings towards Declan Rice with two-word comment in 2019

James McClean slammed Declan Rice as (Image: RTE)

James McClean already showed his true feelings towards Declan Rice with a brutal “sod off” remark. Wrexham winger McClean sparked outrage across the footballing world this week by calling the Arsenal midfielder “overrated” on live television.

McClean, a Republic of Ireland international from 2012 to 2023, appeared as a pundit on RTE Sport for Germany’s 2-0 Euro 2024 win over Hungary, where he suddenly went on a tangent about the highly-rated England midfielder. He controversially claimed Rice “doesn’t justify the hype”, having previously been team-mates for Ireland before Rice switched allegiance.

Yet McClean voiced his disregard for Rice already back in 2019, when the latter had just chosen to play for England instead of the country he represented through the youth ranks. McLean responded by telling any other Irish player tempted to follow Rice into the England squad to “sod off and play for someone else”.

Declan Rice did not have his best game for England against Denmark (Image: Getty)

The Derry-born footballer fumed: “Rice said he was a proud Irishman. Then he said he was a proud Englishman. If he’s both… good luck to him but I don’t buy it. I think you’re either one or the other.

“I was with Derry City when I got the call-up to play for the North (Northern Ireland), and I turned it down because it’s not my country, it’s never been my country. I’m an Irishman.

“It’s not just Declan, it’s anyone else. If you’re not proud to be here and we’re a stepping stone, then sod off and play for someone else.

McClean [L] and Rice [R] briefly played together for Ireland (Image: Getty)

“I’m an Irishman. I grew up on the island of Ireland, simple as that. We only want players here who want to play for Ireland, who feel Irish and are proud to be Irish.”

Rice only played in three friendlies for Ireland but has become a world beater since joining the England set-up. His performance – and the rest of the England players’ – left a lot to be desired in the dismal 1-1 draw against Denmark this week.

McClean took aim at Rice, saying: “I find with Jamal Musiala that he justifies the hype, I think that Declan Rice is very overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a very good footballer but the way the English media waxes lyrical about him is completely over the top.

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“For me, he’s not world class. World class, for me, is someone who gets in every single side in the world and he doesn’t do that.

“I don’t think he gets in Man City’s side ahead of Rodri, I know Toni Kroos is retiring but for me he’s world class because he dictates the game, Rodri dictates the games – I don’t think Declan Rice does that. He’s not someone who plays on the half-turn and plays passes forward.”

Former West Brom manager Sam Allardyce is among a number of people who have since hit back at McClean, saying: “Who is James McClean? Who is he?” Rice’s former West Ham team-mate Kevin Nolan also added: “Do me a favour. He (McClean) might be saying that to keep himself popular on the television.”

Source: https://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/1914399/James-McClean-Declan-Rice-england-euro-2024