London (AFP) – Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has hailed Dele Alli as the best young player in the world as he rejigs his side to cope with the absence of the injured Harry Kane.
The 21-year-old Alli has been criticised for some inconsistent performances this season for a Spurs side chasing a top-four spot in the Premier League and in FA Cup quarter-final action this weekend.
Alli ended a 15-game goal drought when he scored in the 4-1 win at Bournemouth on Sunday and has been given a glowing endorsement by his boss.
Pochettino said there is no other player in the world at Alli’s age who can match his achievements, despite the rival claims of the likes of Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Marcus Rashford.
“When you compare him, Dele Alli, 21 years old, with all the players in the world, not only in Europe, in the world, I think he is the best,” the Argentine said.
“In his age, in his form, assists and everything. But, and I don’t understand why, there is still that feeling (to criticise him). For me, Dele Alli, for his age, is the best. That’s it.
“Tell me one better than him, a 21-year-old, all that he achieves. Tell me one. A current player. Maybe you can find similar or better than him?”
While Alli’s displays have come under scrutiny from fans and the media, Pochettino said his opinion is the one that matters most
“I promise you, I am the most critical person with my players,” said the Spurs boss. “But it is difficult to criticise Dele.
“The most important for him is us, if we criticise him. If we are not happy with him, that is what is important for him and we never criticise him.”
It is not clear whether Alli will feature in Tottenham’s FA Cup tie at Swansea on Saturday.
The midfielder was suffering with a tight groin after last week’s win but is fit and has been named in England’s squad for friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy.
“He played a lot of games, international games,” Pochettino said. “Now, we will see for Saturday because in the end, he’s going to play for the national team, and they are not machines.”
Kane has suffered lateral ligament damage in his right ankle and is expected to return to training next month.
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