After being named the Professional Footballers’ Association Young Player of the Year, Shoot Football takes a closer look at England and Tottenham Hotspur star Dele Alli and his remarkable debut season in the Premier League, so far.
The 20-year-old; who was playing in League One only this time last year, fended off competition from Spurs teammate Harry Kane, Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland, Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho and Everton duo Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku to be crowned the top-flight’s rising star, despite already seemingly reaching for the top of his game this term.
Where did it all begin?
Born in Milton Keynes, Alli joined the Milton Keynes Dons youth academy at the age of just 11 back in 2007. He came up through the ranks at the club and earned a professional contract after finishing as the under-18 side’s top goalscorer with 17 goals. He was then handed his first-team debut in 2012 at the age of just 16. His first touch as a professional footballer in that game was an infamous back-heeled pass which his manager at the time, Karl Robinson, joked that he was ‘going to throttle him’ for.
What happened next?
Within two years of that debut, he was a regular at the Dons. In the 2014/15 season, Alli took League One by storm, scoring 16 goals as MK Dons secured promotion to the Championship for the first time. He also picked up the PFA Football League Young Player of the Year award too, so not a bad campaign for the youngster.
After playing a starring role in the Dons’ 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United in the Capital one Cup, the then 18-year-old was linked with a host of clubs before eventually signing for Tottenham for £5 million on Deadline Day during the 2015 January transfer window. Spurs then loaned him back for the rest of the season.
What are his main attributes?
At 6 ft 2, he is not easily bullied off the ball and has already earned a reputation for a crunching tackle. It’s clear that the 20-year-old has a real footballing mind and can read the game very well. His technical ability is second to none and Alli has already produced performances far beyond his years, with his man-of-the-match performances against the likes of North London rivals Arsenal and France in an England shirt providing the perfect example of why the PFA chose Alli as English football’s brightest gem.
How good can he be?
After yesterday’s award of being named the PFA’s Young Player of the Year award, the young central midfielder clearly has the potential to play at the highest stage for both club and country in the short-term future, whilst also living up to his reputation having received some incredible comparisons to former football greats already this season.
In his first stint in the Premier League; the 20-year-old has taken to one of the world’s most competitive divisions in his stride, scoring a remarkable ten goals and providing nine assists to help Spurs fight for the league title alongside current leaders Leicester City.
That sort of blinding form has led to former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson claiming the Milton Keynes-born gem is the best young midfielder he has seen since Paul Gascoigne.
He has evidently formed a great partnership with Tottenham midfielder Eric Dier this year; both for club and country, to allow the former MK Dons starlet to play with the fluidity and freedom to suit his attacking prowess, whilst also impressively linking up with star striker Harry Kane to fire Mauricio Pochettino’s side above Arsenal in the league standings into second spot.
Currently trailing the Foxes by eight points; with only four games remaining of the 2015/16 campaign, Spurs will require Alli’s rich vein of form to continue tonight when they face West Brom at White Hart Lane, if they are to catch Claudio Ranieri’s side come next month.