Jose Mourinho’s advice to Dele Alli has been well publicized since the Tottenham-focused documentary series All Or Nothing was released in 2020.
“I’m 56 now and yesterday I was 20. Time flies. One day I think you’ll regret it if you don’t achieve what you can achieve,” said the former Spurs boss to Alli, who for the first time in his difficult career was, at the start of the 2019-20 season, enduring a period of difficult form.
“I don’t expect you to be man of the match every game. I don’t expect you to score goals every game. I just want to tell you that you will regret it. You should demand more of yourself.”
Less than 18 months after the documentary aired, Alli’s spell at Tottenham was over, moving to Everton on what was initially a free transfer at the age of 25.
Frank Lampard was confident he could reinvigorate the midfield, whose ability to find space in the area had often drawn comparisons to the Chelsea great. Still, with Everton struggling to survive, questions over transfer sensitivity have been raised.
Now his stint at Goodison Park is coming to an end, at least for the season. Alli joined Turkish club Besiktas on loan, and while welcoming a hero to Istanbul will surely have boosted his confidence, it’s hard not to look back at Mourinho’s words and wonder where it all went wrong. considered one of England’s brightest prospects. ?
superstar in the making
Alli’s ascent was nothing short of sensational. After signing with MK Dons, Alli made his Premier League bow for Spurs against Manchester United in August 2015. He went on to score 10 top-flight goals and provide nine assists in a remarkable breakout campaign.
His best season followed in 2016-17, when he scored 22 goals in 50 appearances in all competitions, averaging one goal every 182 minutes. He followed that up with 29 direct goals (14 goals, 15 assists) in the 2017-18 campaign, and was a key player for Gareth Southgate as England reached the World Cup semi-finals at Russia 2018 It’s hard to see him getting involved in Qatar this time around.
Given a free role behind Harry Kane alongside Mauricio Pochettino, Eriksen was able to thrive, running past the striker to latch onto Christian Eriksen’s precise deliveries, or able to find pockets of space on the edge from the box to show off his prowess with shots from range. He really seemed to have it all.
Difficult times in North London
Spurs reached the Champions League final in 2019 but it would be fair to say that even at this point Alli’s impact had started to wane. Injuries didn’t help, but he managed just eight Premier League assists that season and failed to score in Europe.
Pochettino’s tenure ended in November 2019. Alli had scored twice in the league before Pochettino was sacked, but had been particularly close to his manager (indeed, when Alli left Spurs he paid tribute to the impact the Argentine has had on his career).
Mourinho arrived and, although some hard truths may have come out behind the scenes, Alli looked sharp in the Portuguese’s first weeks at the club. But the promising signs didn’t last, and before the coronavirus-enforced lockdown of March 2020 he was by no means a guaranteed starter.
Alli ended the long Premier League campaign with eight goals in 25 appearances, but in Mourinho’s first full season in charge he was relegated to the sidelines, making just two top starts before the ex-Manchester United and Chelsea manager to be sacked in April 2021.
Nuno Espirito Santo tried to play Alli in midfield during his brief spell with Spurs, and his last goal for the club came under the former Wolves boss, from the spot in a 1-0 win at Molinous. Yet Antonio Conte has only started him twice in the competition, and the writing was on the wall when he was left out of Tottenham’s squad altogether for a meeting with Chelsea in January.
Goodison in Istanbul
Both Alli and Lampard spoke enthusiastically about the move to Everton, sealed on the final day of the January window.
Those words didn’t translate into minutes for Alli, however. He came on his Everton debut in a 3-1 loss to Newcastle United in February, and despite a promising appearance in a 3-0 loss to Leeds United, time on the pitch was even harder to come by. as the Toffees slipped further into the relegation duel.
With Alli playing a key role in a 1-1 draw with Leicester City, it looked like Lampard’s plan for the midfield had been shelved but a game-changing performance in the decisive comeback from Everton. Victory against Crystal Palace in May suggested there could be a place for him at Goodison this season, particularly after Richarlison was sold to Spurs.
Even without a striker recognized as fit to play from the start in games against Chelsea and Aston Villa, Lampard went with Gordon – himself set to move to London – ahead of Alli, who had filled in in an attacking role in pre-season. .
Reports of Besiktas’ interest were confirmed by Lampard last week, and once again the writing was on the wall, particularly with Everton suspicious that if Alli played 20 times (he finished with 13 appearances, none goals or assists and just seven chances created), they are expected to shell out £10m to Tottenham.
From now on, it is in Turkey that Alli will try to revive a once so promising career. He joins Istanbul on loan with an option to buy for the Istanbul club. It’s hard not to think he won’t have Mourinho’s comments in his head.