It took Dele Alli just six months to go from League One side Milton Keynes Dons to England’s next big thing. Six months. Such is the determination and natural talent of Tottenham Hotspur’s fearless box-to-box midfielder, just recently turned 20-years-old, that he has made the step up from third tier terrier to topflight superstar without skipping a beat.
Alli has a composure and assurance on the ball that belies his age and suggests a burgeoning talent some have already compared to Premier League legend Steven Gerrard. With ten goals and nine assists in what has been the mother of all breakout seasons, Alli has been deployed as a defensive midfielder, in a holding role, and shadowed the likes of forwards Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min. For many youngsters looking to forge a long career in the Premier League, this constant shifting and tinkering might have been unsettling. But very little appears to faze Alli.
With this in mind, it came as no surprise to our team that Alli would breeze into his first ever professional signing session, calm, cool and ready to sign our fantastic range of Tottenham and England shirts and photos, Adidas boots and UEFA Champions League balls.
While Alli signed our fantastic range of Spurs photos, we were reminded of his immediate impact on Pochettino’s exciting young squad this season. It was such a huge impact, in fact, that he won the 2015-16 PFA Young Player of the Year award. It was deserved recognition for a season in which the midfielder impressed so many onlookers, including global superstar and England legend David Beckham.
“He’s just jumping on the bandwagon,” a member of his team joked, with a broad smile spreading across his face. It was the first irreverent comment of an easy-going signing session with one of football’s coolest young talents, who joins the likes Lionel Messi Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr and Sergio Aguero in signing with us before the age of 22.
Though Alli‘s Spurs were unable to catch runaway Premier League champions Leicester City – and we can still hardly believe we’re writing those words – the 2015-16 season will be regarded as one of the North London side’s very best. With UEFA Champions League qualification secured for 2016-17 and a feel-good factor around the club, Spurs fans could be forgiven for wishing away the summer.
But before the club can embark on a new and exciting season, there is the little matter of UEFA EURO 2016, a competition to which Roy Hodgson will take Alli and several of his Spurs teammates in the hopes of chasing continental glory. And there is quiet optimism both in and around the dressing room.
Just days before Hodgson confirmed the 20-year-old’s place in the provisional 26-man squad for this summer’s festival of football in France, Alli was keeping himself grounded. Adding his signature to this summer’s England home shirt and photos of his appearances against Estonia and Germany, Alli assured us he was still just hoping to make the squad, despite being one of only two players rated by the bookmakers as 1/100 shots to make the plane.
That said, EURO 2016 fever is still very much bubbling under the surface. Major international tournaments will never fail to inspire and excite this football-mad nation but we at Icons can already feel a palpable sense of anticipation that this year may just be the year. If the exploits of Leicester and the meteoric rise to fame of our new signing have taught us anything about football in 2016, it’s that nothing is impossible.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…