Dele ‘can be a star for England’ says Villa
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England midfielder Dele Alli is capable of emerging from this summer’s World Cup as a “superstar”, according to Ricky Villa.
Alli is widely recognised as one of the finest talents in Gareth Southgate’s squad but his place in the starting XI is in doubt following, by his standards, a less convincing season with Tottenham.
Jesse Lingard’s significant improvement at Manchester United means he also has a further rival for selection but former Spurs favourite Villa – a World Cup winner with Argentina in 1978 – is adamant Alli has to start.
England’s preparations for Russia 2018 continue on Saturday when they host Nigeria at Wembley, and though it is Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane many expect to inspire Southgate’s team, it is the 22-year-old Alli who Villa predicts will “have a great World Cup”.
“He’s young but at the top; if he plays well in the World Cup he can become a superstar,” the Argentinian told Press Association Sport.
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“I prefer that he is in the team. I like this type of player – every time he gets the ball you can expect something different. I’d be disappointed if he’s not in the first team.
“Dele Alli’s another great player, who came to the club very young. (Mauricio) Pochettino worked very hard with him and improved him every day. Now he’s at the top level, so everybody expects so much from him. He can play nice football. I expect him to have a great World Cup and be a top, top player.”
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It is largely because of Alli that the 65-year-old Villa expects England to have a good tournament, but he does not consider them among its favourites, and instead believes that reaching the quarter-finals would represent a success.
“My favourite is Brazil,” he said at a Football Whispers event. “The way they play the ball on the floor; Neymar, (Philippe) Coutinho, Willian. They have three or four players who can make a difference anytime.
“Spain play nice football and have great players, and I expect Germany to be there, and Argentina in the last four.
“If England can get into the last four it’ll be great for the English league. It’s a young team this year.
“I expect them to do well, qualify from the first round, but after it’s very difficult to predict. This year they have a nice team – young – and I expect England to do better than at the last World Cup.”