Dele Alli scored two as Tottenham beat Bournemouth on Saturday.
The attacker looked more like his old self.
There was a time when Dele Alli appeared destined for greatness. But if there was an overriding sense of disappointment around Spurs for failing to capitalise on their greatest opportunity to win a first Premier League title, fans were also witnessing the early establishment of what looked to be a potential great in Alli, whose adaptation was seamless and, quite frankly, remarkable.
With 10 goals and nine assists, Alli’s goal involvements haul was up there with the best of them and he would only become even deadlier. He went on to score another 27 and assist 17 over the course of the following two seasons, making rumoured interest from Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City predictable, but understandable.
The speculation became strong enough for Daniel Levy to reportedly put a price-tag of €150million on him, a figure that would have been a world record at the time. He went into the World Cup an indisputable star, but since Russia, Alli has often appeared a shadow of his former self. Fast forward 17 months and he’s missed out on successive England squads, an outcome that would’ve been inconceivable not so long ago.
Such was his stagnation that some even suggested Spurs’ recent change at the helm represented a vital crossroads for Alli – that he had been allowed to coast under Mauricio Pochettino, something Jose Mourinho simply wouldn’t tolerate.
“I asked him if he was Dele or Dele’s brother? He told me he was Dele. I said, ‘okay, play like Dele’,” is how an early conversation with Alli went, according to Mourinho. The fresh impetus and influence of the new boss seems to have done the trick.
For all the criticism of Mourinho in recent times, let’s not forget that, whatever his drawbacks, getting the best out of attacking midfielders is something he has a track record of. Deco, Frank Lampard and Mesut Ozil all thrived under the “Special One”. By Alli’s own admission, he was “awful” early on against Olympiacos in Wednesday’s 4-2 win, but he improved immeasurably as the game progressed and scored the goal that got Spurs back into the contest having gone 2-0 down.