What happened to Dele Alli?
Since leaving Tottenham after a severe dip in form, Dele Alli joined Everton in attempt to get his career back on track and become the phenomenon he was previously. This deadline day move failed to benefit Alli or the Toffees, with only one start in 13 appearances being enough for the Meryside club to let the Englishman go.
The two time PFA Young Player of the Year has now completed a season-long loan move to Besiktas with an option to buy, if he impresses in Istanbul.
From a rumoured £50m in 2017 to a £1.86m loan move at the age of 26 makes you wonder; what happened to Dele Alli?
The attacking midfielder from Milton Keynes lived the dream of playing for his hometown club from the age of 11. After eight years at MK Dons, Alli turned heads in the 2014-15 season, attracting interest from top clubs and eventually signing for Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham. He was loaned back for the remainder of the campaign, concluding the year as MK Dons Player of the Year and part of the League One Team of the Year.
Alli’s individual accolades from his final season with MK Dons provided plenty of hype amongst Spurs fans, as a prodigy that will develop rapidly under Pochettino’s guidance. He joined a young squad, with only one player over thirty, organised by a 42 year old manager looking to take the league by storm.
In his first Premier League season, Dele Alli accumulated 19 goal contributions, as the league began to witness the rise of Tottenham’s new wonderkid. This was just the beginning.
The following campaign was the infamous 2016-17 season in which Spurs went unbeaten at home in their last set of fixtures at the legendary White Hart Lane. Alli managed to better his stats from the previous year, by some margin too.
18 goals would be a very good season for a striker, but for a central attacking midfielder, it is simply exceptional. Not only did he put the ball in the net, but he also provided 7 assists, mainly supplying to his fellow forwards.
Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Heung-Min Son and Dele Alli were majestic together and had moulded a dangerous dynamic force for defences to deal with. The pace of Son, wizardry of Eriksen and all round brilliance of Kane provided Alli with the tools to score goals and assist his teammates on a regular basis.
Alli’s numbers were also impressive in the 2017-18 season, with 19 goal contributions being sufficient to attract interest from Real Madrid, who were rumoured to have bid £50m for the youngster. This was the moment Tottenham should have cashed in on their man.
Another season without a collective trophy would have been hard to take for a 22 year old Dele Alli, which continued after an anti-climactic World Cup with England. This wasn’t helped by the disappointment that was to follow.
2018-19 was the finale of Pochettino’s era at Tottenham after doing the best he could with what Daniel Levy had provided him. The team deserved a trophy immensely, however, in football things don’t always go your way. After a few near exits, Spurs made their way to the Champions League final, thanks to a Lucas Moura hattrick which was supplied mainly by Dele Alli.
The final ended in disappointment and left Pochettino with irreversible damage to mend on the already rotting squad he had at his disposal. Unfortunately, it appeared Alli was one of those who was beginning to fade away at the beginning of the following season.
Pochettino’s departure was met with the arrival of Jose Mourinho, who did the best he could to revive the Englishman’s career with a pep talk in his office.
After scoring a skilful goal at Old Trafford, many supporters thought their new boss had rekindled Alli’s old form and the goals would start rolling in. They wouldn’t be wrong for thinking 12 G/A in the 2019-20 season is a respectable tally to build on going forward. However, this was not the case and there are two possible explanations for this, possibly a mixture of both.
The first being Alli had issues with his mentality, possibly involving permanent doubts about his ability in the back of his mind due to a lack of silverware. His mental strength may also have suffered due to the extortionate value he held at a young age and feeling a pressure to deliver on a regular basis.
The second is that Alli’s devastating decline correlates with the departure of Christian Eriksen in January 2020. A key member of Tottenham’s attack when Alli registered remarkable stats began to be left out and suddenly both player’s standards dropped. The nail in the coffin was Eriksen’s departure as it led to the Englishman feeling he had to adapt his role. Levy failed to bring in a suitable replacement for Eriksen in the same window and when he finally got round to it he bought Giovanni Lo Celso, who was underwhelming. I am not saying correlation is causation, but it certainly makes you think about those headed goals against Chelsea.
After Mourinho failed to bring back the sensational displays Alli was and potentially still could be capable of, inconsistent glimmers of flair were shown in Europa and Conference League nights. A nutmeg against Maccabi Haifa, as well as an overhead kick against Wolfsberger, were the key highlights for Alli as he bowed out of North London with a new haircut and facial hair.
He joined Tottenham as a youngster with heaps of talent and left as a man wondering where it all went wrong, looking for a restart.
His opportunity to start over came when Everton requested his services at Goodison Park. The deal, negotiated by Levy, included an increase in value for a certain amount of appearances. Little did Levy know, or anyone else for that matter, that Alli would not even break 20 appearances for the Toffees which he needed to make for Spurs to receive around £10m.
He seemed to be settling in well with the players on social media but failed to achieve the same chemistry on the pitch as he did with Harry Kane many moons ago.
He managed to inspire on one occasion in Merseyside,however, in a crucial clash with Crystal Palace where Everton were fighting for survival. His second half appearance had Evertonians on social media jokingly asking to build a statue of him as a result of his performance. This earned him a first start for Frank Lampard’s side, but he failed to impress in a 5-1 away defeat to Arsenal, with Alli being substituted in the 67th minute.
Now we are all caught up, his move to Besiktas is not one made by many 26 year-old players, especially with the individual honours of Dele Alli. He will be hoping to settle in quickly to his surroundings, which will be helped by former teammates Gedson Fernandes and Georges-Kevin N’Koudou.
The advice Mourinho had given him is becoming more relevant as his career goes on, with the former Spur now facing an uphill struggle to get his career back on track. This is an unusual move for a player once rated so highly. As a Spurs fan, I can only hope to see Alli become his former self and reach his full potential with Besiktas.
This is yet another chapter in Alli’s career after his short story with Everton. He will be dreaming of writing his name into Besiktas folklore and showing the world once again what he is capable of.