AS soon as Jose Mourinho walked into the building, there was always going to be collateral damage from Tottenham’s fly-on-the-wall Amazon documentary.
And Dele Alli, one of the most gifted English footballers of the 21st century, is the chief victim.
Dele Alli is a victim of Jose Mourinho’s media circusCredit: AFP
The most high-profile clips from the inadvisable show were Mourinho informing chairman Daniel Levy that Dele was ‘not a good trainer’ as well as the Spurs boss telling the player he was ‘f***ing lazy’ during a practice session and again in a team meeting.
The same Dele who had emerged from a tough background and excelled in the lower leagues with MK Dons to emerge as a key performer for Spurs and England while still a teenager.
The same Dele who hit 18 Premier League goals in a season from midfield — an achievement bettered only once in the competition’s history.
Take away Frank Lampard’s penalties and that 2016-17 scoring record stands alone.
Yet Dele being ‘lazy’ seems to have become accepted wisdom.
Those who know him well won’t tell you that Dele is an ultra-professional workaholic, last off the training pitch, obsessed by the game.
Yet not everyone can be the last off the training pitch.
Neither, though, will they tell you Dele is some loose-cannon liability on a self-destruct mission.
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He is a likeable rascal, at times easily distracted, at times in need of a guiding hand, but a wonderful talent, a valued team-mate, a bright and effervescent character.
He is not a Mourinho sort of player and he is not a Mourinho sort of bloke.
Personality clashes, and professional differences, happen frequently in football. Neither Dele nor Mourinho is blameless but the two men will never see eye-to-eye.
Dele will be 25 in April and, if he is left to rot at Tottenham, his peak years are in danger of passing him by.
A loan move to Pochettino’s Paris Saint-Germain appears his most likely January escape route. Dele wants it. Mourinho would sanction it. But Levy has been digging in his heels.
Dele is wasting away, having played just 74 minutes of Premier League football this season.
When he started against non-league Marine nine days ago, he was excellent.
That FA Cup third-round clash against eighth-tier part-timers was clearly no test of his ability but it was a test of attitude which Dele passed by creating two goals.
Mauricio Pochettino would love to reunite with the star at PSGCredit: EPA
As a result, Mourinho suggested Dele might have earned some league action — yet he sat on the bench as Spurs failed to beat Fulham at home, then was left out of the 20-man squad for Sunday’s 3-1 win at Sheffield United.
The boss claims the door is ‘never shut’ and pointed Dele towards Tanguy Ndombele — last season’s Mourinho scapegoat, who has been excellent of late and who scored a wonderfully saucy goal at Bramall Lane.
But the Frenchman simply struggled badly during his maiden Premier League season, as many do.
Having found his confidence, the 24-year-old is thriving. Dele is not facing the same issues as Ndombele.
A move to PSG, a fresh challenge in a new league with a manager who trusts him, would seem perfect.
Even if Levy sanctions a loan move, and it proved successful, it might still be too late for him to force his way into Gareth Southgate’s Euro plans.
Although, despite a major influx of new talent into Southgate’s squad since 2018, the England boss has a keen sense of loyalty to those who reached the World Cup semi-finals.
If the Euros started tomorrow — with the re-emergence of John Stones and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s dip in form — Southgate would probably start with eight of his first-choice Russian XI.
Dele Alli looks set to miss out on Gareth Southgate’s England Euros squadCredit: Reuters
Jordan Pickford, a back three of Stones, Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker, with Kieran Trippier at right wing-back, Jordan Henderson in central midfield, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane in attack.
Only Ashley Young, aged 35, and Jesse Lingard, who has not played a single Premier League minute this term, are definitely out.
And then there is Dele — still a potential wildcard — even with the emergence of Phil Foden, Mason Mount and James Maddison as attacking midfield options.
In the more likely event that Dele misses the Euros, there will be a winter World Cup less than 18 months later, before the midfielder’s natural peak years would start to wane.
And at club level, like every other long-serving Spurs player, there have been no domestic honours, either.
So it would be heartening, though uncharacteristic, if Levy could find it within him to set Dele free.