This time last year Dele Alli was one of the hottest names in Europe and one of the most in-demand players under 21 in the world.
In fact, PSG’s Kylian Mbappé was probably the only player 21 or under that was more sought after than the Tottenham midfielder. Alli was just off the back of a 2016/17 season where he found the back of the net 18 times from midfield, and managed 7 assists.
Fast forward to the present day, and a lot of that interest has petered out. The Lilywhites were involved in a lot of transfer sagas over the summer, with the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose, Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane all embroiled in transfer rumours, but Alli’s name was barely mentioned.
Something happened last season that shifted different clubs’ perspective of the mercurial midfielder. The hard thing is putting a finger on what exactly it was that caused this.
Statistically, last season wasn’t too dissimilar to the season before. He scored nine fewer goals, but registered three more assists, likewise, he created 16 big chances last season, compared to only five before. In perhaps Tottenham’s two biggest victories last season, against Real Madrid and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, he scored two in both of those games, so he even performed at the biggest stages of them all.
He made the World Cup with England and got to the semi-finals, something that should not harm his reputation. But that didn’t seem to affect much.
Perhaps it was the fact that Alli simply could not replicate the kind of goal scoring form from the season before. His 2016/17 goal haul was staggering, better than legends such as Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes ever achieved. It was put on the same pedestal as Yaya Touré’s 20 he scored in 2013/14 or Frank Lampard’s haul of 22 in 2009/10. Alli may have set the bar too high to achieve those same heights, and naturally the interest in him declined slightly.
What did happen last season was people started to question his character and attitude. He was accused, and began to develop a reputation for diving, something where the negative press can really affect someone of such a young age. Furthermore, England manager Gareth Southgate said that his Alli need to ‘grow up‘ and mature after showing a poor attitude in training.
These things would add up and begin to mar how other clubs view the player. Not only this, but the emergence of other younger players around Europe may have eclipsed Alli. Leroy Sané and Gabriel Jesus had fantastic seasons with Man City, Malcolm had a brilliant season with Bordeaux, and Mbappé continued his boundless progress with PSG and France.
The one person who benefits from this all, however, is Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino. It looks as though the Argentinian will have one of his star players for a few more seasons now. The last thing the manager would want is an exodus of players when he is trying to build something in north London. He was able to keep hold of all of his key players over the summer, and the club will be pursuing silverware.
However, if Tottenham suffer another trophyless season, or season after that, it may be time that Alli thinks about moving. Although the large numbers of suitors died down slightly, there is no doubt that he could still join any top club in England, and indeed Europe. But first and foremost, he must focus on what he is doing at Tottenham, making sure he achieves what he has been very close to achieving in his previous three years with the club.
Perhaps he could become a one-club man, if Tottenham’s improvement continues there’s no reason why he would not want to stay with the club. But while that initial hype surrounds the player may have cooled down slightly, at the age of 22, there’s still a lot more to come.Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!
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