It has been a meteoric rise for Tottenham's marauding midfielder, who has forced himself into Roy Hodgson's Euro 2016 plans. Barely six months after beating Yeovil to secure MK Dons' League One promotion, Dele Alli scored his first England goal against France at Wembley.
Described by then-manager Karl Robinson as "one of the best 17-year-olds this country has ever seen," Alli moved to White Hart Lane for £5million last January. Immediately loaned back to MK Dons, the Football League Young Player of the Year ended the season with a remarkable 16 goals and nine assists.
A harsh jump to Premier League football hasn't hampered his goal-scoring ability; the fantastic chest and volley against Everton already puts him on five for the season. Indeed, Alli finds himself amongst a clutch of youngsters who have blossomed under Mauricio Pochettino, alongside Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Harry Kane. This new deal puts him on £25k-a-week.
So Alli has a good eye for goal. What else does he have? Robinson rates him very highly: "He’s six foot two, a natural eight and there’s something about him: tremendous athleticism, tenacity and drive," he said last February.
"He does most things. He’s ready. He has 13 goals and five assists, above any 18-year-old this League has seen."
Alli began the season in midfield alongside Dier (the Alli-Dier combination must haunt Graeme Souness at night!), mainly for his energetic box-to-box abilities. He's intelligent, mature and extremely confident. So much so, in fact, that his first touch in senior football was a backheel against Cambridge United in the FA Cup. A cheeky pre-season nutmeg on Luka Modric followed.
It's only recently where Pochettino has moved Alli forward as part of the three behind Kane. Since that West Brom game in December, he's scored on three occasions with two assists. He's not a promising youngster anymore - he's genuinely a key player in a title challenger. Champions League football beckons.
Alli isn't perfect - there are still weaknesses in his game. His passing is fairly limited and he can be rash in challenges, being booked on six occasions. In the 2-1 defeat to Newcastle, he squared up to Aleksandar Mitrovic before team mates broke the intense stand-off. But to expect complete maturity from a 19-year-old is ambitious; over time Alli should learn when to get fired up and when to simply walk away.
He's getting there, though. "I’ve great people and support around me to keep my feet on the floor and to keep focusing on the football," Alli told the official Spurs website. "Even with this contract, nothing changes, I’ll work as hard as I can on and off the pitch and do as well as I can."
“The club has been really good to me since I’ve been here. All the boys and staff have helped me settled in well and made it easy to go out there and do my stuff. That helps you with your confidence and you can focus on the football, and that’s obviously important as a young footballer moving away because it can be quite scary at times."
Mature words. And Alli knows he can't rest on his laurels, he doesn't want to be one of the many English 'wonderkids' who quickly faded away. “I have shown what I can do and established myself as a Premier League player," he added. “But I’m 19, I’ve still got a lot to learn and I can’t think of a better place to do that."
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