Nobody can say Steven Gerrard ever backed out of a challenge during his stellar Liverpool career.
The former Red but his body on the line in every game, and this, as well as his talents with the ball at his feet, endeared him to Liverpool and England supporters.
Gerrard made his debut as a fearless 18-year-old but admitted he quickly learned that Premier League football is a man’s game when he came across bad boys Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane and Emmanuel Petit.
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The 35-year-old was talking about England’s hot prospect, who he warned in his Telegraph column against getting ahead of himself.
Alli is only 19, with the world at his feet, and Gerrard predicts things will only get tougher for the Tottenham midfielder.
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“You might think you can take on the world as a teenager, but you soon learn – as I did when facing Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane or Emmanuel Petit – that it’s not as easy as it might appear to spectators after that initial impact,” Gerrard wrote.
Players of Vieira and Keane’s ilk are few and far between in the modern game, which can be seen as a good and a bad thing for Alli.
Keane and co. made Gerrard tougher
On the one hand, the extra protection players are afforded these days means he is more unlikely to suffer a serious injury at the expense of a dangerous foul than when Gerrard burst onto the scene.
However, coming up against Vieira, Keane and Petit - players who weren’t afraid to cross the line - served Gerrard no harm and probably made him tougher.
One thing in Alli’s favour is that youthful exuberance, but Gerrard thinks Alli will quickly clock on the fact that he is a star with pressure to perform.
Alli must step up - for club and country
The LA Galaxy man wrote: “There will come a time when he finds it far more challenging; where he feels he is being single-out for harsh treatment; where the carefree attitude of being a teenager with nothing to lose is replaced with a sense of responsibility he has to deliver every week; and where he feels he’s done well in a match, but not quite performed as spectacularly as many wanted, and is fending off criticism.”
Vieira and Keane enjoyed several fierce battles during their playing days for Arsenal and Manchester United - who can remember the infamous tunnel incident in 2005? - but the two have made up since entering retirement.
“He is my favourite enemy,” Vieira said of Keane in a documentary. “I don’t know if that makes sense to you but it made sense for me, because I loved every aspect of his game.”
The pair should be applauded for helping to mould one of England’s finest ever players, too.