Cole picks out Arsenal, Chelsea target as ‘best player on the pitch by a mile’ for England against Italy
Joe Cole claims Arsenal and Chelsea target Declan Rice was the “best player on the pitch by a mile” as England beat Italy 2-1 on Thursday night.
Harry Kane became England’s all-time record goalscorer when he converted a penalty to make it 2-0 to the Three Lions after Rice had given Gareth Southgate’s side the lead early on.
It was a much better performance from Italy in the second half with Roberto Mancini’s side pulling a goal back straight after the break through debutant Mateo Retegui.
But England held on to make the perfect start to their Euro 2024 qualification campaign and Cole thought West Ham midfielder Rice – who has been made a priority target for Arsenal and Chelsea – was “outstanding from start to finish”.
“Declan Rice was the best player on the pitch by a mile,” Cole said on Channel 4. “It was terrible defending for the goal, but he’s alive to it.
“If it’s a centre-forward we’re talking about instinct. He was outstanding from start to finish.
“But I’ve got to say I’m baffled by Italy’s defending. This is a country known for their defending but it was unacceptable from Italy in that first half.
“Most of the defenders just switch off. But Rice deserves credit because it takes it like a centre-forward, he did really well there.”
On the win over Italy, Cole added: “It’s a significant win. When you win like that it means more. There’s nothing better than this feeling.”
England boss Southgate was also thrilled with the victory and hailed record-breaking Kane for helping them to victory in Naples.
On Kane, Southgate said: “Well, firstly his overall performance tonight was outstanding. I thought he really dominated the centre-backs, his link play was really good.
“You could see right from the beginning of the game he was really on it.
“To break the record in the manner he did given the recent history was an indication of his strength of character and his mentality.
“I couldn’t be happier for him and his family. They’re lovely people.
“He is a brilliant professional and to do it as quickly as he has with still a lot of his career to come is an incredible achievement.
“Huge credit to him. The players gave him a brilliant reception afterwards and I think that was a response to both the record and what he’s just had to recover from as well.”
READ MORE: Italy 1-2 England: Rating record-breaking Harry Kane and the rest of the Three Lions