Dele Alli’s career has hit a bit of a roadblock.
The goals have somewhat dried up over the last 18 months; with the midfielder netting just nine times in all competitions for Spurs since he came back from last summer’s World Cup.
In that time, he’s mostly been injured or out-of-form, coupled with just the odd flash of brilliance.
He’s even been dropped by Gareth Southgate, with his place in England’s Euro 2020 squad next summer seriously under threat from the likes of Mason Mount and James Maddison.
The player that wowed us during the 2016/2017 season, when he scored 18 goals in the Premier League, has stagnated, while the rumours linking him with the best teams in the world — among them Real Madrid, where he seemed to be inevitably heading to just a year or two ago — have gone quiet.
But perhaps that’s all about to change.
With Jose Mourinho taking the Spurs hotseat, Alli could finally become the player we all expected him to be.
At the age of 23, he still has time on his hands and the potential to become a world-class attacking midfielder for both Spurs and England, but he needs to heed the wisdom of his new gaffer.
After all, the Special One has the knack of transforming great midfielders into world-beaters.
Looking back to his time at Porto, you could argue that Mourinho has transformed the career of at least one midfielder at every club he’s managed.
Deco, for example, became an overnight sensation at the Portuguese club during his brief spell under Mourinho.
Unremarkable and somewhat lacking in the attributes required to be an all-action midfielder, Mourinho harnessed the Portuguese midfielder’s versatility and creative nous to make him a key figure in his stylish side.
In two years under the enigmatic manager, Deco won the Portuguese league and domestic cup, as well the UEFA Cup and Champions League before transferring to Barcelona, while in 2004 he was awarded the Ballon d’Or Silver Ball, the second place prize, just losing out to Andriy Shevchenko.
Of course, none of his success was on the cards before Mourinho’s arrival, as Deco was famously dubbed surplus to requirements at Portuguese rivals Benfica by none other than Graeme Souness.
Mourinho was somehow able to mould him into overnight superstar.
Alli perhaps won’t be modelling his game too closely on Deco, but Lampard is certainly someone he’d be hoping to emulate.
The current Chelsea manager was one of the best players in the world under Mourinho; achieving the unique feat of becoming a genuine goal-threat from midfield.
After his first season under the Special One, Lampard scored at least 10 goals in every Premier League campaign consecutively for the next 10 years; and won every trophy possible in a feat that even mirrors the honours-list of Deco.
“We were a new team under Jose Mourinho,” Lampard said in a recent interview, when asked to look back at the Special One’s first season in England. “We were fresh, very hungry to win it and had a fantastic manager, which obviously helped.
“Jose is the best manager I’ve been fortunate enough to play under; he’s brilliant, a real man-manager, and he made us believe we could win the league that season.
“We created a big thing for Chelsea as a football club because we hadn’t won the title for 50 years, so that was a very important moment for the club and for us as a team.”
You can also look to the brilliance of Wesley Sneijder during Mourinhio’s highly-successful time at Inter Milan.
The Dutchman was widely considered the best attacking midfielder in the world during the Nerazzurri’s treble-winning campaign, and was obsessively coveted by Man United for years.
In fact, in a war of words with Eden Hazard towards the end of his second-stint with Chelsea, Mourinho claimed only Sneijder and Deco fit the mould of the perfect No.10.
“Who is my perfect number 10? Sneijder and Deco,” said Mourinho back in 2015. “Because they could defend, get in the box and finish goals? Yes.”
Speaking back in 2013, Sneijder said Mourinho was ‘like a second father’ to him, and hinted at the ways he motivated his players to be the very best.
He said: “He is a very special person for me. As a coach he is incredible, number one.
“It was he who gave me confidence and I enjoyed playing football like never before under him.”
If it’s confidence that Dele is lacking, then he finds himself suddenly being managed by one of the game’s greatest motivators.
And it appears the Mourinho magic is already starting to rub off, with Alli impressing at the weekend in Spurs’ win over West Ham.
In one moment of brilliance, the midfielder fell on his back trying to control a misplaced pass, before producing a glorious flick to keep the ball in play and set-up Lucas Moura for Spurs’ second goal of their 3-2 win.
Much has been made of Mourinho telling Alli he wanted to see him play, not his ‘brother’, ahead of the weekend’s game.
What we saw at the London Stadium was perhaps a taster of things to come; a player keen on impressing his new manager and at the beginning of a personal renaissance.
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