Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino: Dele Alli is the best 21-year-old in the world right now
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The Lilywhites boss defends the form of the England international, but he may not be fit to face Swansea City on Saturday
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has launched an impassioned defence of Dele Alli, labelling the 21-year-old the best player in the world at his age.
Alli’s goal at Bournemouth on Sunday was his first in 16 matches and, although there are two months of the season remaining, his current tally of 10 strikes is less than half of the 22 he managed for Spurs last term, resulting in suggestions his form has dipped.
Yet Alli’s contribution of six goals and nine assists in the Premier League this campaign is still the joint-best total of all current 21-year-olds across Europe’s top five leagues.
Only Celta Vigo’s Uruguayan striker Maxi Gomez can equal the Tottenham midfielder’s tally of 15 goal contributions – goals and assists.
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“The most important thing for him is us, if we criticise him,” said Pochettino. “If we are not happy with him, that is what is important for him, and we never criticise him.
“When you compare him, Dele Alli, at 21 years old, with all the players in the world - not only in Europe but in the world - I think he is the best, in his age, in his form, with assists and everything.
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“I don’t understand why there is still that [sniffy] feeling. For me Dele Alli, in his age, is the best - that’s it - in the world.
“Tell me one better than him, a 21-year-old, with all that he achieves. Tell me one. Now. A current player.
“Maybe you can find similar, but better than him? For me he’s the best because he is my player too - maybe I’m not objective. But for me, he is amazing, all that he is doing.”
Manchester City’s Leroy Sane, who turned 22 in January, is sure to be a strong contender for this season’s PFA Young Player of the Year award.
But when his name was mentioned, Pochettino replied: “Yes, but this season. Last season who was the best? Dele, no?
“We expect more from him? Yes, of course. We are so expectant and we want always more. But from the day that he made his debut with us, in Tottenham, for me he is one of the best in the world. He’s a fantastic player, such a special player.
“But that is only my point of view. Maybe it’s not important for the people who criticise him to listen to me because I am only a simple coach. But I promise you, I am the most critical person with my players. But it is difficult to criticise Dele.”
It remains to be seen whether Alli will line up against Swansea City in Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final as he was withdrawn late on against Bournemouth due to a groin issue.
“It was tight,” said Pochettino. “He played a lot of games and international games. Now we will see for Saturday because in the end he’s going to play for the national team [later this month], and they are not machines.”
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