Inside Alli’s fall from grace – Mourinho’s advice, Nuno issue and Spurs strop

It wasn't long ago that Dele Alli's name was being mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

These days only way the Tottenham star is likely to end up at the Bernabeu, Parc des Princes or Allianz Arena is on a stadium tour, such has been his decline.

The midfielder has gone from one of England's brightest young talents, a player who Spurs chairman Daniel Levy revelled in beating Liverpool to signing, to something of a lost soul, struggling to find his best form or position in a team that lacks identity under Nuno Espirito Santo.

Under Mauricio Pochettino and alongside the likes of Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, Alli was a key component in Tottenham's resurgence as Premier League title contenders and Champions League finalists.

He was involved in 44 Premier League goals for Tottenham in his first two seasons with the club, 28 as scorer and 16 as a provider.

Those statistics, which at one stage seemed to come as standard for a player who had the world at his feet, now feel like a world away.

The midfielder has suffered with injury problems during his time in north London, but that can't fully account for the drop off Spurs fans have seen from Alli.

Do you think Dele Alli needs to leave Tottenham to resurrect his career? Let us know in the comments section.

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"As I’m getting older, my body can’t do what it used to as much so I am working a lot more off the pitch, in the gym on my hamstrings because I’ve picked up a few hamstring problems," Alli told The Times in 2019.

"I’m looking around, every little one per cent can help. When you are young and naive maybe you don’t think that but as you get a bit older and you learn more – I’m looking to get that little per cent from everything I can."

For many, the former MK Dons man has not been the same since his period playing under Jose Mourinho.

Yet Alli started life under the Portuguese in excellent form, responding well to his manager's comments about whether it was Alli or his brother playing for Tottenham after he was criticised towards the back end of Pochettino's time in charge.

"I have already spoken with him and I asked him if he was Dele or Dele’s brother," Mourinho explained. "He told me he was Dele. ‘OK,’ I said. ‘Play like Dele’.

"I think he is potentially a fantastic player. Now I have to create a tactical situation he is happy with, give him the right dynamics and prepare him physically well because he has had important injuries and he is not on the top of his form.

"But he needs to go through a process that will bring the real Dele back because the real Dele is the one who in the last few years has impressed us all."

Initially the Alli revival continued under the former Manchester United and Chelsea boss, with the midfielder involved in eight goals in Mourinho's first eight games, scoring five times and providing three assists.

The upturn in form didn't last, however.

The goals soon began to dry up, with Mourinho questioning Alli's "lazy" training in a one-to-one meeting, during a pre-match meeting and in a chat with Spurs supremo Levy.

Those comments were captured on camera and used in the Amazon All or Northing documentary and were followed by clips of Alli complaining about the style of football under Mourinho in a Champions League defeat at home to RB Leipzig.

"Come on boys, want the ball. Play. We're just smashing it long and (swears) defending. We're not going to win nothing like that," he said in the dressing room.

Not long after that outburst came the Premier League's enforced break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

When football did eventually return, Alli was forced to watch on from the sidelines, making just one appearance before the delayed end to the campaign.

Things didn't get any better for him last term, with the midfielder playing just 15 Premier League games in total, only seven of which were starts.

Tellingly, five of those came under Ryan Mason after Mourinho was sacked in April.

It is difficult to know where Alli goes from here. Although he is back in the team following the appointment of Nuno, he still doesn't look half the player he was in the early days under Pochettino.

Part of the issue is undoubtedly the player's own visible lack of enthusiasm and desire, however, that should not necessarily be used as a stick to beat him with.

During lockdown, Alli was held at knifepoint by burglars in his home. He suffered minor facial injuries after being punched before the thieves made off with valuables during a frightening ordeal.

On the pitch, there's a sense no-one really knows what to do with Alli positionally.

Is he a box-to-box midfielder? A No.10? Someone who can play more defensively? Against NS Mura on Thursday he played on the right hand side of a midfield three.

That seems to be where Nuno sees him, but it's difficult to agree that it's his best position and one that will see him used to best effect.

On top of that, Alli further angered Spurs fans on Thursday after it emerged he stormed down the tunnel after being substituted midway through the Europa Conference League match.

Many Tottenham supporters have lost faith in the 25-year-old, and it's hard to argue against the fact a move could be the best outcome for all parties.

A transfer away from north London could also ignite Alli's flailing England career.

After making his Three Lions debut at the age of just 19, the midfielder accrued an impressive 35 caps before he even turned 23.

Since his 23rd birthday, he has gained just two more caps – and none since June 2019, which is criminal for a player of his talents.

As Alli has fallen by the wayside, the likes of Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham have emerged onto the scene and moved ahead of him in the pecking order.

During Tottenham's All or Nothing Amazon documentary, Mourinho sat down with Alli and offered him some words of advice.

"I am 56 now and yesterday, I was 20," Mourinho said. "Yesterday. Time flies. Time flies. I think one day I think you will regret if you don't reach what you can reach."

As Alli approaches an important juncture in his career, it's difficult not to reflect on how poignant Mourinho's words could turn out to be.

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