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Tottenham and England star is the next Steven Gerrard… and he’s part of a dying breed

first_img1 Dele Alli This time last year Dele Alli had just scored for MK Dons in a 2-1 win over Swindon in League One.Fastforward 12 months and the 19-year-old was going toe-to-toe with the masterful Sergio Busquets and striking a sublime first England goal in a man of the match display against France at Wembley.‘DELE ALLI WON’T BE STAYING AT TOTTENHAM FOR LONG WITH PERFORMANCES LIKE THAT’Alli’s meteoric rise is no fluke. Without getting too ahead of ourselves, the Tottenham midfielder could well be the closest thing England has had to Steven Gerrard in his prime since the former Liverpool captain’s career began to wane.Gerrard’s leggy, languid style was the driving force behind every success Liverpool manifested in the last decade. He was intense, dynamic and, above all, a box-to-box midfielder – character traits becoming increasingly evident in Alli.Ali’s adeptness going both forwards and backwards is a rare commodity in modern football. The archetypal British box-to-box midfielder is a dying breed, with players nowadays far more specified and regimented within their individual roles and strengths.Midfielders are increasingly either a holding player or attacking player, with those nuances becoming more and more mutually exclusive. It’s a far cry from Gerrard’s all-action displays which would see him in both penalty areas in the space of 30 seconds.Bayern Munich star Arturo Vidal is perhaps the flagbearer in modern football for that type of midfielder, with his unrivalled dynamism a huge factor in his resonating impact felt all over the pitch. The Chilean’s performances lead by example and his achievements in the last year – spearheading Juventus to the Champions League final and Chile to Copa America glory – are testament to his influence.Alli is the poster boy of the next generation hoping to imitate Gerrard and Vidal. His former manager and a man he regards as a father-like figure, Karl Robinson, revealed the meticulous deliberations behind the decision to let the young midfielder leave for Tottenham in January, albeit returning to MK Dons on loan for the rest of the season.Alli plundered 16 goals from midfield as the Buckinghamshire club finally clinched promotion to the Championship after years of flirting with success, and understandably his form saw him coveted by a number of Premier League clubs.center_img Aston Villa and Newcastle also had offers on the table, so Robinson soon realised he couldn’t deny his prize asset his chance to make the step up.In hindsight, the switch to White Hart Lane has proved a masterstroke. Even Alli’s most ardent supporters probably couldn’t have predicted the integral role he has assumed in ensuring Spurs have remained unbeaten in the league since the opening day of the season.Robinson built the foundations, but if there was ever a manager to take Alli to the next level it would be Mauricio Pochettino. Nine of the last 15 England debutants have burst onto the international scene under the Argentine’s stewardship, with Alli and Eric Dier the latest on that list.And Alli’s rapid emergence has proven as refreshing as it has been surprising, particularly for the traditional romantics of the English game. Against the French he made himself at home throughout his appearance, but illustrated his supreme potential in one, breathtaking instant. After crashing into Morgan Schneiderlin with a fierce slide tackle, he demanded the ball off Wayne Rooney and drove forward before unleashing a quite brilliant strike past his helpless Spurs colleague Hugo Lloris. It had the feel of a watershed moment in Alli’s fledgling career.Liverpool’s reported snub of the then 18-year-old, a boyhood Reds fan, in summer 2014 is their loss and Tottenham’s gain, with north London and Pochettino’s regime now the perfect environment to nurture his development.Unlike Jack Wilshere, the last heir apparent to Gerrard’s throne, Alli appears to possess the drive and temperament conducive to unlocking his true potential. In fact, if the former’s fitness doesn’t show signs of improvement it could be Alli who takes full advantage ahead of Euro 2016. If Pochettino can manage him wisely, next summer’s finals could prove the stage for a star to be born.last_img read more