Dele Alli, remember the name!
That famous commentary line was used to announce Wayne Rooney’s arrival, but it could easily have been used when the then 19-year-old flicked the ball over his head and fired home a stunning volley from 25-yards out against Crystal Palace in January 2016.
His career seemed mapped out from that point. Bright young talent. Sublime skill. Requisite arrogance and attitude. Europe’s elite could form a queue for the boy from Milton Keynes.
At the age of 23 he had more goals and assists – in fewer games – than Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard at the same point in their careers.
He also netted his first 50 Premier League goals in fewer games than Chelsea star Eden Hazard.
His form continued onto the international scene, scoring in England’s win over Sweden in the quarter-finals of the last World Cup and played a huge role in Spurs reaching the Champions League final in 2019.
His through ball found Lucas Moura in the sixth minute of stoppage-time at the Johan Cruyff Arena, and the Brazilian completed his hat-trick as his deflected effort squirmed under Andre Onana to book Spurs’ place in the showpiece final.
Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Tottenham is considered to be the beginning of the decline for Alli, but the truth is, the rot had set-in earlier.
His returns as a box-to-box creative force were diminishing well before the (not so) Special One arrived after Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking.
Since the 2016/17 season his playing minutes have slipped, his goals and assists have fluctuated and, crucially, as a creative instigator, his passing stats have dropped, too.
Dele Alli’s Tottenham PL passing stats
2015/16 (1,083 passes)
2016/17 (1,330 passes)
2017/18 (1,251 passes)
2018/19 (1,028 passes)
2019/20 (810 passes)
2020/21 (330 passes)
2021/22 (87 passes)
The tensions between Alli and his former boss were documented in the Amazon documentary All or Nothing. The Portuguese boss questioned Alli’s ‘lazy’ training, during a pre-match team meeting.
And he missed out on England’s thrilling run to the Euro 2020 final. He wasn’t even named in Gareth Southgate’s squad. Bombed out. Never to return?
However, Alli has been reborn under new Spurs boss, Nuno Espirito Santo. He is back at the heart of Spurs’ midfield and fans are singing his name again.
The goal at Palace five years ago may have heralded a false dawn, but the immensely talented Alli is hitting his straps again. He’s the player that domestic and international managers hoped he would be.
Along with his new season ‘hair do’, it seems like Alli also has a fresh batch of renewed confidence and great attitude which we can evidently see in his recent performances.
There has been a marked transformation in his physicality. His stamina has improved, lasting the whole 90 minutes in a physically more punishing position.
Alli is in full force as he has already proved his worth by scoring against Wolves this season and playing all three games – he is here to stay.
Del Boy is back. Beware Palace!
Listen to full commentary of Crystal Palace vs Tottenham LIVE on talkSPORT on Saturday, kick-off 12:30pm.
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