FT Top 5 Young Players With African Roots: Dele Alli [Tottenham]
The English international was born on 11 April 1996 in Milton Keynes, England. His full name is Bamidele Jermaine Alli and was born to a Nigerian father, Kenny of the Yoruba tribe and English mother, Denise. Dele’s father moved to the United States a week after he was born and was raised by his mother who suffered from alcohol problems. He fell in love with the game at a tender age and joined the Milton Keynes Dons youth system when he was just 11. At 13, Alli moved into the home of a teammate at MK Dons and stayed with Alan and Sally Hickford whom he considers being his adoptive parents although he was never legally adopted. His first touch professional football was a back-heel pass in his senior debut for MK Dons in 2012 when he came on as a substitute against Cambridge City.
Three years later, English Premier League giants, Tottenham Hotspur signed him for an initial fee of £5 million. After a loan spell at MK Dons, Alli made his Tottenham debut against Manchester United in August 2015. For the rest of the 2015/16 campaign, he delivered performances that won him the PFA Young Player of the season after scoring ten Premier League goals in his rookie season and helping Spurs qualify for the Champions League after a five-year drought. In the ensuing season, he changed his kit name to Dele citing that he “felt no connection” to his legal surname after parting ways with his mother. In that campaign, Dele consolidated his place as one of the most exciting talents in the football world, winning the PFA Young Player of The Year for the second time and the buzz continued with rumors linking him to the likes of Real Madrid. He, however, stayed at Spurs and has become an integral part of Mauricio Pochettino’s squad alongside Harry Kane. He has become the most highly rated young player with an increased valuation of €82.6 million, a staggering 142% increase in a year. It has not all been chocolate and roses for Dele as he has received a fair share of criticisms for some sluggish performances and behavior. He is, however, proving to be a growing player and individual who is expected to star for the three lions in the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals in Russia.
Here is how some football icons described the 22-year-old:
“In the box, he looks like a striker, and outside the box, he plays like a midfielder." - Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Manager
"He is fast, fluid and has a great skill set" - Rafael van de Vaart, Dutch Footballer
Frank Lampard thinks he is sneaky and intelligent to have the ability to, "to get into the box without being marked".