Home News What’s happened to Dele Alli at Tottenham?

What’s happened to Dele Alli at Tottenham?

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Alli has joined the Toffees on a two-and-a-half-year deal as he looks to reignite his stalling career at Goodison Park.

The potential £40m transfer fee will be structured based on performance-related add-ons after seven years at the club. 

Alli, 25, has struggled to find his best form recently and has played only 10 Premier League games this season.

“I’m here and I’m looking to show what I can do and show everyone the best part of Dele,” he said.

Alli played an integral role under Mauricio Pochettino as the club achieved top four finishes in four consecutive seasons, but he fell out of favour during the reigns of Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo and Antonio Conte.

He scored a total of 67 goals in 269 games for the London club, but has also lost his place in the England team, for whom he has 41 caps.

The former MK Dons player was one of two deadline day acquisitions by Lampard, with Netherlands international Donny van de Beek joining on loan from Manchester United.

Alli left an emotional heartfelt message to Tottenham after his Everton switch.

Alli wrote: “It’s the end of a chapter but not the book… Thank you all for the messages.

“I’ve had an incredible 7 years at Tottenham and have made some life long friends that now feel like family!

“I want to wish my brothers all the best for the rest of the season and more. To the fans, I want to say thank you

“We’ve had some incredible moments together than will stay with me for the rest of my life and I will never forget the amazing support you have given me

“Playing for you was a dream come true and you will always be in my heart.

“I want to give a special mention to Mauricio and his staff for their trust and guidance in the early part of my career at Spurs, which gave me the confidence and platform to show what I can do.

“I love you all and wish you the best for the future! Dele out.”

THE BIRTH OF DELE ALLI

At the turn of February 2015, Tottenham were applauded by recruitment staff across European football for landing Dele Alli, MK Dons’ 18-year-old prodigy and England’s most valuable talent on a pre-contract.

Bayern Munich, too, regularly had their scouts attending the youngster’s matches and they weren’t the only Bundesliga club drafting an extensive dossier on Dele

Privately, though, Levy wasn’t entirely sure if £5m was a smart outlay for a kid kicking about in League One.

Former Tottenham manager David Pleat was among several voices that convinced Levy to part with the initial fee, as it was a “no-brainer.”

There was not much room of negotiation over the asking price as Newcastle were trying to muscle in and the super clubs were still in play.

For everyone it’s a small change but for notoriously economic Levy who missed out on Grealish due to £2M three years ago, it was a huge money to slap on league one wonder kid.

Alli had already scored 12 goals in 25 league games that season when the announcement of the signing was made.

He was an England Under-19 international and was referred to as “the trump card” in the youth set-up.

Levy’s apprehension over the £5m fee naturally transformed into him regularly highlighting it as an example of Spurs’ shrewdness.

At just 20 years old, Dele put world football on notice. He easily outperformed England’s most lauded midfielders, including David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

At that time, just three years ago, Dele transcended expectations and paved a path to eclipse the aforementioned quartet as England’s best ever midfielder.

MK Don’s Dele Alli with the Football League Young Player of the Year Award during the Football League Awards 2015 at The Brewery in London.

HE TOOK OVER THE EPL WITH FIRE

The Spurs midfielder was once regarded as the hottest property in world football, being ranked as the #2 most valuable player in the world in 2017 in a study by CIES Football Observatory — How has his stock fallen so low?

Everyone remembers the Dele Alli of old; young, cheeky, arrogant, playing with a swagger that few other players could match. The astonishing rise of Dele Alli is almost unmatched, from playing with Milton Keynes in League One in 2015 to being the world’s second most valuable footballer in 2017.

Dele Alli adapted from the third-tier to the first-tier of English football seamlessly, scoring 10 goals in his maiden Premier League season in 2015–16.

Considering Dele was regularly playing as an 8 in his first season, the number of chances that came his way is a testament to his movement. His finishing? Even better.

This mesmeric rise continued as Tottenham came 2nd in the Premier League in the 2016–2017 season as Chelsea were crowned champions, Dele scored an unbelievable 18 Premier League goals and 22 goals in all competitions.

ENFIELD, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 09: Dele Alli of Tottenham poses with the Premier League Player Of The Month award at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre on February 9, 2017 in Enfield, England. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images for Premier League)

In both has maiden and sophomore Premier League seasons Dele Alli featured in the PFA Team of the Year, as well as being named PFA Young Player of the Year on both occasions. The sky was the limit.

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 25: PFA Young Player of The Year Dele Alli pose with the trophy alongside Paul Allen prior to kickoff during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane on April 25, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Alli ranks sixth on the list of players to have been involved in the most Premier League goals before turning 22, just ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku and Raheem Sterling.

Frank Lampard was 26 when he scored his 50th goal in the competition. Alli was just 23 – the same age as his Tottenham team-mate Harry Kane, the man being tipped by many to break Alan Shearer’s record of 260 Premier League goals.”I thought he was a young Roy Keane in terms of his mentality when I first started working with him for England,” Gary Neville told Sky Sports when reflecting on Alli’s gifts

Aggressive, box-to-box, could score a goal, was nasty, could take the ball, make a pass, he seemed to have all the qualities you would want in a football player.”

But his recent stark regression, both on and off the field, is a tragic tale rivalling Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth.

Seeing Dele’s fire dwindle to a mere ember is a harsh reminder of how cruel football can be at the top level.

Where’s the creativity?

For his first three seasons, Dele Alli was a creative threat just as much as he was a goal threat, and that’s what made him such a special talent.

Dele got 9 Premier League assists in his debut campaign, with the Dele/Kane duo being valued on the same level as the Son/Kane partnership of today.

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 30: Harry Kane celebrates with Dele Alli of Spurs during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and AFC Bournemouth at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 30, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

After establishing his creative talents during the 2015–16 campaign he built on this in 2016–17 with seven assists, and his creativity peaked during the 2017–18 campaign, where he tallied 10 assists.

His creativity since then, has been merely non-existent. Alli managed only 3 assists during the 2018-2019 season, improving slightly to 4 assists in 2019-2020 and only racked up one assist last season.

The goals have dried up, the assists have dried up, is Dele dried up?

More astonishing than Dele’s rise is his apparent demise, what’s happened to Dele?

One thing is clear — Dele is no longer getting into the positions he used to, something I’ll explore further.

The rise of Heung-Min-Son

Although Dele Alli and Son Heung min are close friends, the pair have gone in opposite directions during their Tottenham careers.

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 08: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Son Heung-Min of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring his teams goal with Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur during the The MIND Series Match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on August 8, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Vincent Mignott/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Dele was Tottenham’s diamond, and figurehead to lead the club for years to come alongside Harry Kane. While son had a relatively poor first season at Tottenham and actually asked to leave the club to return to the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg.

Son had his breakout season for Spurs during 2016–17 where Dele Alli was also on top of his game but one key thing to note here is the positions of the two players.

Son-Heung-Min was played on the left or right-wing, while Dele Alli was played in a second-striker role alongside Harry Kane, while Christian Eriksen would start from the left side and move to the centre of the pitch.

After the 2016–17 season Son then became Kane’s partner in the centre of the pitch which left Spurs trying to accommodate Dele.

Dele played matches starting from the left-hand side, which he wasn’t quick enough for, he started behind the pair which hasn’t worked and Spurs’ also tried playing him deeper — which he lacks the defensive prowess form.

He scored 9 league goals in 2017 – 18,his lowest in premiership by then but followed it with impressive 10 assists (his highest by then) While Son passed him in golden boot race for the first time in Tottenham’s shirt (12) and hasn’t looked back since then.

Son followed the impressive 2017-2018 season by another 12 goals and 6 assists why Alli could only regress more to 5 goals and 3 assists.

My point is Son became a bigger and more important player for Tottenham, he’s not only played the Dele Alli role, but he bettered it.

In terms of numbers, 2016–17 Alli was more productive, but for the balance of the team, Son has proved a much better option.

Leaving Spurs playing Alli in numerous roles that don’t suit him and have inevitably had a harsh effect on his contribution to the game.

But Tottenham legend and former gaffer Hoddle insisted: “Dele is a major asset. Playing at his best, he would score more goals than Foden and Mount.

“He is a midfielder who gets in the box. He is a box threat, rather than a deeper player who is a builder and you can build your game around.

Conte speaking after his tenacious display against Liverpool :

“I know with the formation we played vs Liverpool, I helped him. Because he’s a midfielder and a No.8. A midfield with three players, I think this is his proper role.

“He has to continue to show desire to stay here and to want to continue to deserve, especially, to stay here”

Dele Alli lost his passion for football 

While the positional change and balance to the team has definitely played an impact, the sharp decline in attempts on goal shows a player that is short in confidence.

Jose Mourinho famously told Dele when he arrived at Tottenham

“are you Dele or Dele’s brother?”

Mourinho was emphasising that while he looked like Dele Alli, he wasn’t playing like Dele Alli and that’s clear for us all to see.

Mourinho put Dele back in his attacking role stating, “Dele is not a midfield player”.

Alli rewarded Mourinho’s faith with four goals and three assists in his first five appearances under Mourinho.

However, since then Alli’s form has declined once more and he finds himself outside the Tottenham first team for the first time in his career.

In the Amazon documentary of a similar name released in 2020, Levy has such a conversation with Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho.

Raising his hands skyward, the perplexed chairman says, “two years ago, he was here” referencing Dele’s status as a golden boy that was a star for club, an automatic pick for country and persistently linked with Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Mourinho further underlines that top billing, revealing:

“Sir Alex Ferguson gave me only one advice in two-and-a-half years at Manchester United, buy Dele Alli.”

Now the reality is Dele can’t crack the Spurs squad, has made one league start this season, is on the fringes of Gareth Southgate’s thinking and is hoping for a loan escape to Paris Saint-Germain, where he can be reunited with Pochettino.

It would be easy, but unfair to pin the England international’s decline on Mourinho.

The truth is Dele’s diminishing powers predate the Portuguese’s arrival at Tottenham and most of the issues the manager has flagged – being” lazy in training” and having the lifestyle of a “party boy” – were not new revelations.

If anything, Mourinho coaxed a brief revival resulting in four goals and three assists in seven games before it all went off the boil again.

The midfielder was meant to dominate the biggest games for club and country but now finds himself lost and joyless on the periphery

“But if they want a warning sign they should look at Dele Alli. I had him with England three or four years ago and l would have said that he would go on to become one of the top midfielders this country has produced.

He had everything. And now look at him. He was subbed at half-time today and he’s a shadow of what he was in terms of application and work ethic. I said last year he needed a shock, but he needs to sort himself out, and I love him as a kid.” Gary Neville after he was subbed half time against Arsenal.

What next for Dele Alli? 

Dele, still only 25, now looks a shadow of the prospect who wowed the Premier League when he arrived.

He was rightly regarded as the future of English football after Spurs snapped him up from MK Dons in February 2015 for what, despite his fall from grace, still remains a bargain £5million.

Alli has now worked under several managers at Spurs since breaking into the first team under Mauricio Pochettino and yet he has failed to fully convince Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo and Antonio Conte he is worth giving a central role.

Alli : I just want to be happy playing football

I’m very excited, a bit tired from the long day but we got there in the end. I’m delighted,” Alli said.

“I’ve had a few good conversations with him [Lampard] already, he’s a player I admired through his whole career watching him.

I’m pleased to work with him, it’s very exciting, I’m sure we can do great things together.

“I just want to be happy playing football. Working with Lampard, and the great players Everton have got, is a great opportunity for me to do that.

I’m excited to go there, show the fans what I can do, and help the club as much as I can.”

It is hard to pinpoint his fall from grace, but Frank Lampard could be the ideal manager to turn a lost talent back into star quality.

The new Everton boss would urge him to get back to basics, but feeling loved is what Alli needs

Can Dele overcome the odds at Everton and turn his story into one of redemption, or is he destined to forever ruminate on what could have been?

 

 

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