Declan Rice, 24, has been in the spotlight in recent months as the Hammers strive to stay in the Premier League, and his future remains uncertain.
Arsenal have been extensively linked with the England midfielder, who is set to earn his 40th cap against Italy in a Euro 2024 qualifier on Thursday night.
There has been the talk of a blockbuster £100 million move to north London for Rice, who has received a lot of plaudits for his efforts in Gareth Southgate’s side and West Ham, but he was recently chastised by Liverpool legend and pundit Graeme Souness.
Souness said Rice possesses only one of the three distinguishing attributes that differentiate a world-class midfielder when he hailed the 24-year-old’s ball-winning talents.
The Scotsman believes Rice is ‘limited’ because he does not provide enough creativity or score enough goals.
“This midfield role is a vital part of any team because in an ideal world, it’s multi-dimensional – you are creative, you chip in with goals and you’ve got a defensive head at all times,” Souness wrote in the Daily Mail last month.
“If you’ve got all three of those attributes, you’re worth your weight in gold. For me, Rice has just one of them.”
But Rice has now hit back at Souness by suggesting if he feels he’s ‘limited’, he hasn’t watched enough of West Ham to have formed a worthy opinion.
“It’s harsh, I think it’s harsh because Souness doesn’t watch West Ham every week,” he said.
“There’s loads of West Ham fans, 60,000 go every week, and see what I do. So I think to say I’m only good at one of three things is harsh.
“Souness was a top midfielder, a top player and when someone like him speaks you have to sometimes listen and take on board where you can improve if that’s true.
“Of course, you have to take on board what people say otherwise you’re never going to improve. I try not to read too much.
“There has always been loads of talk around my name. But for me, now I’m here, it’s about these two fixtures for England and of course when I get back to West Ham it’s about playing the best I can for that club to get us out the relegation battle and win the Conference League.”
Souness’ criticism of Rice was backed up by Roy Keane after West Ham’s FA Cup defeat to Manchester United, when the Irishman said more’s expected from a player of Rice’s pedigree.
Rice responded to Keane’s criticism by saying he had to take the bad with the good after previously receiving plaudits from the Manchester United star.
“He’s said some glowing things about me in the past and sometimes some things I can improve as well,” Rice said of Keane.
“It’s one of those where you take it with a pinch of salt and try not to let it affect you that much. I can take criticism on the chin quite well. If it is that way I can see where I can improve.”
Rice has also challenged his England teammates to go one step further and win a major trophy for the first time since 1966 as they begin their Euro 2024 qualification campaign with a blockbuster tie against defending champions Italy.