Delle Alli was a wonderkid. He made his Premier League and England international debut within months of each other and at the age of just nineteen.
And yet, by his mid-twenties, he was on loan in Turkish football with his career falling apart.
So what happened to Delle Alli?
The Rise of Delle Alli
Delle Alli was part of the MK Dons squad that dismantled Manchester United 4-0 in the League Cup of Autumn 2014. Already, the just 18-year-old, was on the radar of several Premier League sides including Liverpool and Tottenham. And, it was the latter who struck a deal in January 2015 for the youngster to join them in the summer of that year.
When he arrived at Spurs, his ascent was remarkable. Mauricio Pochettino was in his 2nd season at the club, and Alli instantly became his most valuable player. He scored his first goal against Leicester in August, made his Europa League debut in September, and made his first appearance for England in October, scoring in that game too.
In his first two seasons, Alli would consecutively be voted PFA’s Young Player of the Season. He would also win the Premier League goal of the season for his brilliant juggle and volley against Crystal Palace in 2016.
Also being in the Premier League’s team of the season for two consecutive years, Delle was fast delivering on his promising potential.
At his pinnacle, Alli was an indispensable ingredient in Pochettino’s attack.
His productivity came from his excellent movement inside the box, instinctive finishing ability, and an uncanny understanding with Harry Kane. He scored good goals, but really important ones too, and on the big stage against big opponents.
The fall of Delle Alli
By 2018/19, there were clouds on the horizon. Delle had a spiky playing personality and had suffered suspensions as a result. The season before, he would also suffer a hamstring injury, the first of his four, over the course of eighteen months.
In fact, in the season that saw him and Spurs reach the Champions League final, he would all in all miss 23 games. Furthermore, Alli would suffer from a thigh strain and a broken hand.
Tottenham’s downfall, and ultimately his, happened in the 2019/20 season. Mauricio Pochettino was sacked by the club towards the end of 2019 and replaced by Jose Mourinho. Initially, the change seemed to benefit Delle Alli.
According to the Athletic’s Jack Pitt-Brooke, Alli holds the ultimate responsibility for his decline apart from the injuries and Tottenham’s spike in form.
He says that “Delle grew distracted by his off-field interests.” And, that was particularly damaging given, “that his game was ultimately all about hunger, about his willingness to keep taking risks to get on the end of things. And make those late runs into the box.”
Pitt-Brooke also observed that Alli had stopped making those runs, and with that, he lost what made him such a dangerous attacking player.
Well, it’s a valid point because even at his best, Dele would often be relatively peripheral in games, only to punctuate them with a telling moment.
So when those fireworks were gone, Alli barely resembled who he had once been. Too bad for a player who was once ranked the most valuable midfielder in the world.
Alli finally left Tottenham for Everton on a free transfer and failed to make an impact. Within a space of eight months and after fewer than 20 appearances, he was then loaned to Turkish Super Liga side Besiktas.
So what went wrong?
Did Delle Alli become demotivated at Tottenham? Was he damaged by repeated injuries? Was he bewitched by his own father, whom he neglected? or did he miss his perfect departure point?
Well, the truth may remain elusive and may not be revealed for many years to come. For now, the rise and fall of Delle Alli remains a great riddle in English football.