Dele Alli
Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and AFC Bournemouth at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 30, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The English Premier League returns this weekend after an international break with two high profiled clashes. Current leaders Leicester City travel to the current champions Liverpool on Sunday, while second-place Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester City on Saturday. Both games will define who those four teams are, but more importantly for midfielder Dele Alli the clash against City could define his future at Tottenham.

Alli has not played a minute since Tottenham’s embarrassing loss in the Europa League to Antwerp in October. Tanguy Ndombele has gotten the nod from Jose Mourinho in both Premier League games since, while Alli has failed to even make the bench. Mourinho said after the Antwerp clash that had he been able to replace all 11 players at half time he would have, instead he made four and Alli was one of them.

It wasn’t long ago that Dele Alli was being linked with moves to Real Madrid and Barcelona. So far this season he’s played a total of 67 Premier League minutes. Add to this his coach Jose Mourinho calling him “fucking lazy” several times, including once in front of his teammates, and it looks as if Alli is done at Tottenham. The exchange, which was broadcasted on the Amazon Prime ‘All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur’ documentary, shows Alli laughing it off as Mourinho critiques his play during a game.

The Milton Keynes-born midfielder may not be laughing in the coming years though as his club and international career come under pressure. His last England cap came in June and since then he has fallen behind the likes of Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, and Mason Mount in Garett Southgate’s plans. The England manager told journalists at the beginning of the month Alli’s absence was “a consequence of the competition” which won’t change if not getting regular playing time for Tottenham.

So to improve his international chances he has to first impress Jose Mourinho, who is known to not like lazy footballers. You just have to look at his relationship with Paul Pogba during his tenure as Manchester United manager to see this. At one point he referred to the French international midfielder as a “virus” and had a contentious relationship with the star until his departure in December 2018.

The other option is for Dele Alli to look elsewhere for opportunities. It’s not an immediate solution as the transfer window doesn’t open again until January but if his situation remains the same it has to be a strong consideration. The downfall is it would most likely mean downgrading from a Tottenham team that is flying high right now.

The other ‘Big Six’ are not likely to be interested with Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea all set in that position. Manchester United are also overloaded with attacking midfielders but given the current shambles they are it would not shock me to find out they are interested. A move to Arsenal would be interesting giving the rivalry but again he’s not a player Mikel Arteta should be interested in given what is currently at his disposal.

As for other top end options, Everton signed James Rodriguez in the offseason and Leicester have James Madison. Both teams could be interested but Everton seemed to do most of their business in the summer while Leicester has a specific style of play that wouldn’t suit Alli. Of course, that might not stop Brendan Rodgers if Alli is available at the right price.

Other than that it’s likely a case of one step back to take two steps forward for the former MK Dons academy graduate. Right now that may be the best move for Alli as at 24-years-old he’s still got time on his side. That’s not a bad thing as losing the lazy label could take a while.