West Ham midfielder Declan Rice has revealed he wanted to move to Aston Villa last summer after initially struggling to prove himself in the Premier League.
The 20-year-old made his England debut back in March and has become a regular for both club and country throughout 2019. However, Rice has now claimed he did not get off to the best start in the 2018/19 season.
Having been replaced at half-time in a 4-0 defeat to Liverpool on the opening day, Rice failed to feature in the next three games, leaving him feeling his future lay elsewhere. With various Championship clubs interested, Rice has said Villa was his preferred destination.
"I wanted to go to Aston Villa under Steve Bruce. West Brom, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa wanted me. I was pushing for Villa the most," he told FourFourTwo.
After speaking to teammate Ryan Fredericks about a potential loan move away, Rice appeared set on joining Villa, but manager Manuel Pellegrini had other ideas.
"I remember speaking to the manager here, saying that I should go on loan. He just laughed it off and said, ‘You’re not going on loan!’ He said, ‘You’re going to stay, and you’re going to play’. He told me that I had to get back into the team."
Rice did exactly that, going on to make 34 Premier League appearances last season. Having been dropped by Chelsea at the age of 14, he acknowledged he is happy to have put that disappointment behind him and proved that he belongs at the top level.
He added: "At the time when I got released by Chelsea, I thought they’d made a mistake, so I knew I had a point to prove. Now they’re probably looking back on it - the person who made the decision - and thinking, ‘Maybe we’ve messed up here'."