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Dele Alli - the new Gerrard, Robson or Gazza

Published 24/04/2016

Tottenham's Dele Alli has scored 10 goals from midfield in his debut Premier League season
Tottenham's Dele Alli has scored 10 goals from midfield in his debut Premier League season

Almost a year ago to the day Dele Alli was crowned the Football League Young Player of the Year.

He had already signed for Tottenham four months before, but completed the season on loan at MK Dons and helped his boyhood club achieve promotion to the Championship.

Despite hitting 16 goals for the Dons, the teenager, as he held the trophy, talked about keeping his "head down" at White Hart Lane and "not getting carried away". He recently said his aim was just to start 10 games for his new club.

Alli, who on Sunday was named PFA Young Player of the Year, has blown that target out of the water. The 20-year-old has made 45 appearances so far for Spurs this season, scoring 10 times and playing a leading role in the team's surprise title challenge.

His form has seen him earn six caps for England and on the fourth of those against France he scored a brilliant goal, driving the ball from 25 yards past his club team-mate Hugo Lloris and into the top corner.

Adulation for Alli's talent has been unrelenting and the comparisons to former midfield dynamos diverse.

Jamie Redknapp found likeness with Steven Gerrard, Alli's childhood hero, Roy Hodgson predicted he could be England's next Bryan Robson and Sir Alex Ferguson said he was the best young midfielder he had seen since Paul Gascoigne.

There was certainly a hint of Gascoigne about arguably Alli's finest goal of the season, against Crystal Palace in January, when he cushioned the ball on his knee, flicked the it over his head and volleyed home from outside the penalty area. Even some of the Palace supporters applauded.

The challenge for Alli now will be to carry the weight of expectation placed on his shoulders and to thrive on it for both club and country, starting at Euro 2016 this summer.

Alli has a competitive edge that will earn him extra attention from referees - he was fortunate to receive only a yellow card for what looked like a stamp against Fiorentina in the Europa League - but club boss Mauricio Pochettino has always vouched for the midfielder's strength of character.

"I am not worried about the hype," Pochettino said last month.

"You are always aware of it and you are behind him to try to support him. But I think it has surprised us how he's shown maturity.

"He's very calm and quiet after all that has happened to him and how his life has changed this season."

What is clear is Alli has an insatiable drive to succeed.

His under-11s manager tells a story of him once turning up late for a Sunday morning match, only to ride in on a bicycle, having completed a cross-country race the other side of Milton Keynes earlier that morning.

If Alli can keep focused and stay on the right track, this PFA Young Player of the Year award should be just the start.

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