The club-record buy has found his form after a difficult first season.
Spurs are outside of Europe’s elite this season having reached the Champions League final in 2019
It has been an uncomfortably strange fortnight for Dele Alli and one that is perhaps best summed up with Jose Mourinho suggesting he should look to Tanguy Ndombele as an example of the way to apparently win back the head coach’s favour. Given Mourinho’s previous withering criticism of Tottenham Hotspur’s record signing, following Ndombele would not appear to be a sound move, especially as it remains to be seen whether he actually means it. But it was what Alli was effectively told after the Europa League victory over Macedonian side Shkendija, a tie that both players started. Except, for the second time this season in the two games he has started, Alli did not complete anywhere near the 90 minutes. On the opening day of the campaign he was substituted at half-time in the defeat at home to Everton and then against Shkendija he lasted just 60 minutes before being replaced by Harry Kane. Tellingly, that move followed Tottenham having conceded an equalising goal before going on to win. For Spurs’ other two games Alli was not even in the match-day squad. “Players with me, they feel all of the time that I don’t give positions for free. The players have to fight; they have to perform,” Mourinho said when asked to address Ndombele’s seeming improvement, although it equally applied to his attitude to every player he coaches. And what of Alli? Should he learn from Ndombele? “Yes, that’s what I want,” Mourinho said. “I don’t want players to moan, I don’t want players to be feel frustrated, I don’t want players to feel that I have something against them when I don’t pick them up. “I want players to fight for the minutes that they want to be on the pitch and when you play for Tottenham, you have to understand that Tottenham wants to be better and better, and the rewards are going to be better and better, and the players cannot have a comfortable position on the pitch. They have to be ready to fight for the minutes they want to be on the pitch.” The inference was clear: Alli, Mourinho was arguing, has been indulged too long; has felt “comfortable” for too long; was picked on reputation for too long and needs to improve. There is no doubt the 24-year-old has had a disappointing past two seasons – even if he was instrumental in Spurs’ extraordinary comeback in the Champions League semi-final against Ajax – and now appears to be in an invidious position.