Dele Alli is apparently a difficult guy to love. At least at first! Dele penned a short column in the Sunday Mail today about his relationship with Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur, through a story about his early days meeting the manager when he first arrived at the club.
“When I signed for Spurs in 2015 I came to have a look around the training ground, but I think he [Pochettino] was in Spain. I didn’t see him till I came back for pre-season.
“It was really hard and I didn’t know what he thought of me. The first proper one-on-one was with [assistant coach] Jesus [Perez}. They were speaking in Spanish and then Jesus said to me: ‘He didn’t like you...’ or similar. The boss was staring me in the eye to see how I reacted. I was speechless! He paused for like a second, and he said ‘...but now he loves you.’”
I think he was probably kidding! Just a hunch, though.
Pochettino is close with a lot of his close stars, but in the interactions between himself and Dele, you really get the sense that there’s an almost paternalistic bond between the two. Dele didn’t have the greatest upbringing and has in the past credited football with keeping him away from bad influences and out of trouble. But there’s no question that he has a bit of a temper and has been prone to getting wound up and making stupid mistakes.
With every minor Dele controversy, be it BirdGate™, Dele flipping a ball off some dude’s face, or something equally cheeky and/or petulant, Pochettino always seems to have Dele’s back when the media asks. That seems to happen even when he’s mildly critical of his star midfielder and his antics. But Dele seems to also know that Poch is there for him for words of encouragement and support when he needs it.
“Do I upset him? Yeah, all the time. [Alli laughs]. A few weeks ago we were doing some shape work and I was a bit annoyed, not at him but just with some stuff.
I was walking in and looking at the floor and he told me to lift my head up and smile.
Later, he pulled me into his office and talked to me about how if I’m not being happy and positive it can have an effect on everyone. I didn’t realise how much.”
Dele hasn’t had the best of times this season, if you consider his suspensions in the Champions League and World Cup qualifiers, and while he’s still an integral part of Tottenham’s offense, he hasn’t hit the same heights that he did last season at his peak. It’s nice to know, however, that he’s at a place where the manager knows him, loves him, and supports him when times are tough. I’d like to think that this might make him just a bit more reluctant to leave when the big clubs eventually come calling.