Dele Alli, Tottenham
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The rise and fall of Dele Alli

| 20.12.2021

A look at the career of Dele Alli

Dele Alli was once one of the biggest and brightest talents in the Premier League, a member of England’s next golden generation and the midfield talisman of a high-flying Spurs side that had burst into the top four.

However, without Mauricio Pochettino by his side he has become ostracised at Tottenham and with the January transfer window peering on the horizon, could be heading for the exit door.

Here we take a look at the rise and fall of Alli’s career so far and where things have fallen apart for the 25-year-old.

England star 

Alli was one of the leading lights of Pochettino’s Tottenham side that challenged for the Premier League in 2015/16 and made the Champions League final in 2019.  

One of Pochettino’s most trusted and loyal foot soldiers, he played 106 times in the Premier League in the three full seasons the Argentine was his manager, scoring 37 top-flight goals and his boss often referring to him as the best 21-year-old in the world. 

Dele Alli, England

Having scooped the PFA Young Player of the Year in his first two full seasons in north London, he was also a key figure in Gareth Southgate’s England set-up, starting in every World Cup game in the Three Lions’ run to the semi-final in 2018. 

He was a scorer in the quarter-final against Sweden and with some of Europe’s biggest clubs sniffing around, Alli was awarded a bumper six-year deal that made him one of Tottenham’s biggest earners in the autumn of 2018.  

Mourinho’s wrath  

Pochettino’s exit was the beginning of a downward spiral for Alli and the 25-year-old has been on the periphery in north London ever since. 

The appointment of Jose Mourinho was meant to bring the trophies that had avoided Pochettino to the Tottenham trophy cabinet but for Alli, the former Chelsea gaffer’s arrival proved to be a defining moment in his fledgling career.  

Mourinho has a habit of making an example of a young starlet if they fail to live up to his lofty expectations, especially those in attacking positions.  

Kevin De Bruyne and Mo Salah are just two who have felt the cold shoulder of Mourinho in the past, so some would argue Alli was in good company. 

Dele Alli, Jose Mourinho, Tottenham

However, the pair never gelled and with the Portuguese boss struggling to make Alli tick, the midfielder soon found himself out of favour and warming the bench.  

Although making 25 appearances during Mourinho’s first season at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, he only figured 15 times last term and Alli’s strained relationship with the manager became an unwitting focus of Amazon’s All or Nothing series that was filmed during the 2019/20 season.  

Bottom of the pile 

With Mourinho gone, Alli had the chance to resurrect his Spurs career and briefly made a resurgence in the early days of Nuno Espirito Santo’s reign. 

However, his performances flattered to deceive and having found himself cast aside to the Europa Conference League B team by Santo, his Tottenham future is looking bleak with Antonio Conte now in the Spurs hot-seat.  

Conte has been scathing in his analysis of the Spurs squad since arriving in London and Alli is now back to his now customary role of warming the bench.   

Identity crisis 

So how has Alli, one of the most precocious talents in world football only three years ago, ended up as a bit-part player confined to Thursday night action in the European equivalent of the Papa John’s Trophy? 

Alli has always had a Gazza-like love of football, the streets kid who just wanted to entertain, at his best when allowed to just pick up the ball and make things happen.  

When Pochettino was in the Spurs dugout he was allowed to flourish and the gaffer was there to wrap an arm round his shoulder and allow him to just be Dele. 

However, following the Argentine’s departure, Alli has felt the influence of a series of organisers and disciplinarians on his career.

There is no room for individuality with the likes of Mourinho and Conte at the helm.  

Alli has been asked to adapt his way of playing but has struggled to make the transition from free-spirited front man to disciplined midfield general.  

In short, Alli’s strengths don’t fit the profile of the modern-day midfielder and without someone in the dugout to provide that license to thrill, Alli has lost his identity on the pitch and is no longer the explosive and exciting dangerman that once influenced games at will.  

Technically flawed 

Some would argue that Alli was always going to struggle once an inevitable change of direction was implemented at Spurs.  

Critics would point out that for all his tricks and flicks and the trademark runs into the box, he was actually far from the complete package.  

A weakness on his left side, which makes for an over-reliance on his right foot, combined with a poor shooting technique have limited his progress and stand out now that the goals and assists that marked his early career have dried up.  

All that Mourinho and Santo asked of Alli was to take the risk out of his game, retain possession and keep things simple. Alli was unable to do that.  

Headline maker 

Rather than making headlines on the pitch, most column inches dedicated to Alli of late seem to be in the gossip columns of tabloid newspapers.  

Some would say this is what happens when young talent are handed extortionate contracts at such a young age and would point at the moment he put pen to paper on a new Spurs deal in 2018 as the catalyst for things falling apart.  

Many believe his failure to prioritise football and his clearly thriving social status is detrimental to his career and escaping the traps of the London glamour scene could be key to Alli getting his sporting career back on track.   

What next? 

With Alli surplus to requirements in north London, now appears the time to try pastures new and it is likely he will not be short of options.  

He was briefly linked with a move to PSG in the summer and a move to Paris to work once again with Pochettino would be an appealing option for Alli.

However, it is unlikely he will get the game time he is craving with the PSG squad stacked with world-class talent.  

Even if PSG isn’t an option, then a move to the continent could be Alli’s best option.

A fresh start away from the gaze of the Premier League cameras has helped plenty in the past and could restore Alli’s focus.  

However, it is most likely he will remain in the top flight and Newcastle look the front-runners for his signature.  

The Magpies will be desperate to flex their financial muscles in the January transfer window in a bid to stave off relegation and Eddie Howe has already identified Alli as someone who could help revive the fortunes of the Tyneside club.  

A cause for optimism 

Alli can look to his former England midfield partner Jesse Lingard for inspiration on how a move can work for the better.  

Lingard thrived once swapping Manchester for West Ham last season and did enough to break his way back into Gareth Southgate’s England plans for Euro 2020.  

Dele Alli, Gareth Southgate, England

Southgate is a manager who picks on form and gives second chances and there is an outside possibility that Alli could make the plane to Qatar with the right move and success on the pitch.  

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Adam Morgan