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Dele Alli must leave Tottenham to save career

A few years ago, there was a debate to be had about which Tottenham Hotspur youngster would go on to have the better career. Harry Kane’s goalscoring meant he was often the headline-maker, but many felt Dele Alli had the higher ceiling. Either way, both seemed destined for the top.

Yet at the start of 2022, Kane and Alli find themselves in very different positions. The former is Tottenham’s talisman and was the subject of a £125m bid from Manchester City last summer. Kane has not been at his best so far this season, but he is still one of the leading strikers in the world.

On the other hand, Alli is struggling to even get on the pitch. Antonio Conte did not include him in his matchday squad against Chelsea on Sunday, even as Dane Scarlett and Harvey White made the bench. The Athletic reports that Tottenham are willing to listen to loan offers for the 25-year-old before the January transfer window closes next Monday. A player who started four of England’s games at the 2018 World Cup will do well to even be included in Gareth Southgate’s travelling party for Qatar.

It has been quite the fall from grace. Alli was an integral part of the Tottenham team that finished third in 2015/16 and second in 2016/17. He scored 18 Premier League goals in the latter season and deservedly won the PFA Young Player of the Year prize. Alli usually played in the number 10 role but he was more of a second striker than a playmaker. He excelled at making late runs into the box and was also useful out of possession, pressing from the front as his manager Mauricio Pochettino demanded.

Pochettino was the ideal manager for Alli, who responded well to his arm-around-the-shoulder approach. Jose Mourinho, his successor, took a harder line with the midfielder. The two never saw eye to eye and it was assumed that Alli would become a key player for Tottenham again as soon as Mourinho had left the building.

He did indeed make a positive impression in Nuno Espirito Santo’s first game in charge, a 1-0 victory over Manchester City. Playing in a deeper role as part of a midfield three, Alli was energetic and industrious as Spurs registered a hard-earned win on the opening weekend.

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Yet that was the exception, not the rule. Alli has started only seven more league games this season – and just two under Conte. He has completed 90 minutes in the top flight just nine times in the last two years. He is under contract in north London until 2024, but it is increasingly hard to see him becoming a prominent part of a Tottenham team again.

Only Alli knows whether this is the case or not but it seems as if he has lost his love of the game. He once played with an abundance of enthusiasm but that spark has gone now. None of Mourinho, Nuno or Conte has been able to coax out the old magic.

Tottenham have tended to play a 3-4-3 formation under their current manager. It is not a system Alli fits naturally into. He is not a wide forward and it would be a bold move to play him in a midfield two. Conte appears to have made his mind up on Alli, hence the suggestions that he could be playing elsewhere come February 1.

A change of scenery would do him good. Alli does not turn 26 until April; and he still has time on his side. The worry, though, is that this is not a minor dip in form. Alli has not been his old self for years now. A move away from Tottenham, even on a temporary basis, would suit everyone.

Alli must hope Pochettino’s Paris Saint-Germain will renew their interest in a player they tried to sign 12 months ago. Tottenham might also prefer to send him overseas but there will no doubt be Premier League interest too. Unsurprisingly, Newcastle United has been mentioned as a potential destination. West Ham United could offer him the chance to stay in London but Spurs may be loath to loan Alli to a top-four rival.

The worst things would be for the former MK Dons man to still be at Tottenham after the January window has closed. Alli desperately needs to get his career back on track. To do so he must leave north London, at least for now.

 


 

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