Dele: "I'm as hungry as ever"
Fri 02 August 2019, 12:00|Tottenham Hotspur
Believe it or not, Dele Alli is preparing for his fifth season at Spurs. Where does the time go?
It’s now four years since the young, attacking midfielder, then 19, announced himself to fans by nutmegging Luka Modric in the Audi Cup. Within days, he made his debut at Old Trafford, then two weeks later, his first goal, off the bench at Leicester.
His first start came at Sunderland in September, 2015 - coincidentally, Heung-Min Son’s debut - and he was off and running. Four years and four seasons later, he’s already past 50 goals (53) in his 184 matches for us, has twice been named PFA Young Player of the Year (2016, 2017) and is an England regular with 37 caps and appearances in two major tournaments, Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. He scored in the quarter-final against Sweden as the Three Lions reached the semi-finals in Russia.
In summary, Dele’s rise has been nothing short of spectacular – that nutmeg in Munich doesn’t seem two minutes ago, let alone four years.
Had he changed in that time? “As a person, I haven’t changed,” said Dele, back at Hotspur Way after helping us lift the 2019 Audi Cup, back at the Allianz Arena. “I’ve always been the same. I think I’m a more established player now, people know who I am a lot more but as a person, I’m as hungry as I always was when I first came here. I still want to achieve a lot more and that won’t stop.
“Every year I’ve learned so much with the players I’m playing with and the coaching staff. I feel like I’m in a great place to continue learning. I’m still young and excited to keep learning and improving as a player. It would be nice to get a few more goals and assists this season but that’s not what my whole game is based on.”
It was pointed out to Dele that to the wider audience, that’s exactly what his game is based on.
“Yes, obviously because of my first two seasons and the amount of goals and assists I managed to get (32 goals in 96 games), people expect that to be my game but as a midfielder, I don’t think that’s just what it’s all about,” he responded.
“We have defensive work as well, making space for other players and getting goals and assists as well. That’s what I judge my game on.”
Did he think he was a more rounded player than in 2015? “Yes, definitely. I do more for the team defensively. Maybe not getting as many goals and assists, but that’s not important to me. I make sure I help the team and try to keep my place in the starting 11. I’m learning every year as a player and I feel more complete.”
Four seasons already! “It’s gone so quickly.” So how did he feel ahead of 2019/20? “I feel excited," he smiled. "We’re expecting big things. Every year we’ve shown improvement as a team, so yes, excited.”
What were his targets for 2019/20? “Just to be successful as a team. We’ve had years where we’ve been so close and now it’s time to get over the line and start winning things.” And personally? “It’s a team game, so winning as a team is the main thing for me. To get some goals and assists would be nice but the main thing is to win things as a team. That’s all that matters.”