Dele Alli breaks silence on Tottenham exile under Jose Mourinho: ‘I blame myself’


Dele Alli insists he holds no hard feelings towards Jose Mourinho despite his time in the wilderness at Tottenham under the club’s former manager. 

Alli found himself in exile from the first team set-up under Mourinho for long spells, with many of his appearances only coming in the FA Cup and Europa League. And after being one of the central players in England’s run to the World Cup semi-final in 2018, Alli isn’t even in the England squad for Euro 2020.

Mourinho was frustrated by Alli’s application in training in the early days of his Tottenham tenure – as documented in the behind-the-scenes Amazon show All or Nothing – but the 25-year-old holds no grudges against his ex-manager.

Dele Alli says he 'learned a lot' by working under former manager Jose Mourinho at Tottenham

Dele Alli says he ‘learned a lot’ by working under former manager Jose Mourinho at Tottenham

The 25-year-old found it tough to keep a place in Tottenham's starting line-up with Mourinho

The 25-year-old found it tough to keep a place in Tottenham’s starting line-up with Mourinho

‘The only person I blame is myself,’ he said to Goal. ‘I should be performing at a level where it is difficult to not put me in the team or not play me. 

‘I don’t blame anyone but myself. Working with Mourinho was a great experience and one I learned a lot from.’

Mourinho admitted in an interview in Spain recently that former players of his may consider him ‘a b*****d’ because of his direct nature but it seems the Tottenham attacker isn’t one of them, despite widespread reports of bad blood between them at Spurs.

Early on in the All or Nothing Spurs documentary, Mourinho told Spurs chairman Daniel Levy that Sir Alex Ferguson told him to buy Alli for Manchester United but since arriving at Tottenham, he was unimpressed by what he had seen.

‘Sir Alex Ferguson gave me only one piece of advice in two-and-a-half years (at Manchester United) – buy Dele Alli,’ Mourinho said, before quoting Ferguson. ‘”That guy, that mentality, the way he plays, the aggression he has in his mind, this guy is a Manchester United player. Buy that guy”. And he has an eye for players. 

‘But he (Alli) is not a good trainer, we need to find the right motivation for the guy.’

In Mourinho’s first training session at Tottenham, he was on Alli’s case – branding him ‘f***ing lazy’ and telling him: ‘I’m going to be a pain in the a** on you and you are lucky, you are lucky. When I am a pain in the a** it is a good thing.’

In 2018, Alli was a key part of the England side that reached the World Cup semi-final but now is not even in the squad for the Euro 2020 tournament

In 2018, Alli was a key part of the England side that reached the World Cup semi-final but now is not even in the squad for the Euro 2020 tournament

Mourinho branded Alli 'f***ing lazy' in one of his first training sessions as Tottenham boss

Mourinho branded Alli ‘f***ing lazy’ in one of his first training sessions as Tottenham boss 

Mourinho also held talks with Alli in his office, trying to work out how to cajole the best form out of him.

‘I have no doubts about your potential,’ Mourinho told him. ‘I saw you do incredible matches and incredible things. But I always felt you had ups and downs. There is a huge difference between a player that keeps consistency and a player that has moments.

‘That is what makes a difference between a top, top player and a player with top potential. It is something you don’t have to share with me, I think it is for you to analyse yourself and to realise why my career has been MK Dons, Tottenham, national team, BANG, you reach the top and then… (gestures up and down with his hands).

‘I don’t know if it has to be through your lifestyle, if in one period you are an amazing professional and then in another you become a party boy. Only you can know that.

‘I am 56 now and yesterday, yesterday I was 20. Time flies. And I think one day you do regret if you don’t reach what you can reach.’

In a one-to-one chat, Mourinho told Alli he worries he could have regrets about his career

In a one-to-one chat, Mourinho told Alli he worries he could have regrets about his career 

In January, Alli was linked with a loan to PSG and reuniting with old boss Mauricio Pochettino

In January, Alli was linked with a loan to PSG and reuniting with old boss Mauricio Pochettino

Despite an initial upturn in form, Alli’s performance level fell away and last January, PSG – and Alli’s former coach Mauricio Pochettino – tried to sign him on loan. 

Mourinho was sacked by Tottenham in April and now there is a chance for a fresh start for Alli under Nuno Espirito Santo, the former Wolves boss who took over at the London club last week.

Just two days ago, Alli shared pictures of himself training alone at a venue called ‘The Campus’ in Portugal and he is relishing the upcoming campaign.

‘He (Nuno) has done a great job at Wolves,’ Alli said. ‘I am looking forward to speaking to him and working with him. He is a great manager and it is exciting times.

‘I want to make this year one of the best I have had. A lot of people have said I need to find the form I was in a few years ago. For me, I don’t even want to get to that, I want to go past that and reach my full potential to be the best player I can be.’

Alli has been training in Portugal to get in the best shape possible before the new season

Alli has been training in Portugal to get in the best shape possible before the new season

Tottenham recently appointed Nuno Espirito Santo as Mourinho's successor as manager

Tottenham recently appointed Nuno Espirito Santo as Mourinho’s successor as manager 

Perhaps a marker of Alli’s fall in form is his absence in the England fold. Three years ago, he played and scored in England’s 2-0 World Cup quarter-final win over Sweden but now he is not even in the set-up.

Tottenham’s season begins on August 15 when they host Premier League champions Manchester City. The following week they are away to Wolves, Santo’s old club.

Their first pre-season friendly is on August 17 against Leyton Orient.