For the first game of last season, Mauricio Pochettino started little known Englishman Eric Dier at right-back against West Ham. Now, the 21-year-old is a key player in Tottenham’s midfield, in a season that has helped him gain international recognition.
The success of his change from right-back to defensive midfielder will come as a surprise, even to Dier. Last season, he rejected two separate call-ups from the England U21 side in favour of staying at his club to work on his development at centre-back.
For the whole of last season, Dier was used as a versatility player, who filled in where Tottenham had injuries. This season, he is very much a first-choice pick in Pochettino's midfield.
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Dier’s rise to the top hasn’t been a normal journey. Despite being born in England, he moved to Portugal at the age of 10 and was signed-up to Sporting Lisbon’s academy - an academy well known for bringing through very talented players who are very skilful and comfortable with the ball at their feet.
A prime example of this is Cristiano Ronaldo, and I don’t need to tell you how good a career he’s had.
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Along with the clear ability he has on the ball, Dier has the physical stature and strength that you need to achieve in the Premier League. He has shown this in abundance - something that has been crucial - especially with a player like Dele Alli alongside him. Alli is more of technical player with pace and skill, who gets forward a lot more.
This only works for Tottenham because Dier has the discipline of a veteran in the position. His partnership with Alli is very similar to the days of when a centre midfield pairing of Tom Huddlestone and Luka Modric, in their prime, lit up White Hart Lane.
They were part of the first, and only, Spurs side to make it into the Champions League and the current crop have shown they have the ability to get the north-London side back into Europe’s elite club competition.
In terms of Dier, from his recent performances, it seems that his future lies in the defensive midfield role. If he can continue to make the rapid progress that he has made over the last 12 months, there is no telling where he can go.
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