The January transfer window is open, and Tottenham Hotspur could soon have a decision to make. Paris Saint-Germain’s appointment of Mauricio Pochettino, coupled with his increased isolation at the hands of Jose Mourinho, has led to renewed speculation that Dele Alli could be on his way to the French capital. A formal offer from the Ligue 1 champions would put Spurs in quite the predicament.
Alli could hardly have had a worse first half of the season. Hauled off at half-time against Everton on the opening weekend, he has yet to start another Premier League game. Jose Mourinho has left him out of the matchday squad altogether on numerous occasions. Alli has played just 75 minutes of top-flight football in 2020/21.
The England international has been more involved in the Europa League, but Mourinho’s comments after an outing against Stoke City in last month’s League Cup quarter-final provided further cause for concern.
“Yes, for me a player that plays in that position is a player that has to link and create and not to create problems for his own team,” the Tottenham boss said of Alli, who gave the ball away in the build-up to Stoke’s only goal in a 3-1 defeat.
“In that situation, an objective counter-attack would probably end with a goal, and it ended with a counter-attack behind our defenders. We were unbalanced because when you are in possession you have full-backs out wide and another midfielder in a different line and they caught us in a counter-attack and they transformed the result of the game that was totally in our hands, so yes I am upset.”
Alli wasn’t recalled to the starting XI for Tottenham’s semi-final showdown with Brentford on Tuesday but did make the starting line up for the FA Cup third round tie against Marine five days later. Other than the fourth round, it it difficult to see when the 24-year-old might play again for the club, a situation that would have been unimaginable 12 months ago.
Alli was a brilliant player for Spurs under Pochettino. There was a time when he, not Harry Kane, was tipped to be Tottenham’s talisman for years to come.
Alli’s career has clearly stalled, but his talent is in no doubt. At 24 he is a valuable asset. Indeed, given his prominence over the last few seasons, it is easy to forget that Alli is still so young.
Daniel Levy has always been a shrewd operator in the transfer market, and he will know that selling Alli this month could come back to bite him. The midfielder still has three and a half years left on his contract, which puts Spurs in a strong negotiating position. Levy will hope an amicable solution can be found.
Yet if Mourinho makes it clear to the Spurs chairman that Alli is not in his plans, Levy will be put in a difficult position. The attacking midfielder’s value will depreciate the longer he is out of the first-team picture, and receiving tens of millions of pounds for an asset that is unwanted by the manager would, in a sense, represent good business.
At the same time, Levy will be aware that Mourinho’s track record means there is no guarantee he will still be Tottenham’s manager 12 months from now, by which time the sale of Alli could look like a major mistake.
A loan move to PSG may well suit all parties: Alli gets to play regular football at a major club in the run-up to the European Championship; PSG benefit from the addition of a talented player with whom Pochettino has a fine relationship; and Spurs end the unsatisfactory situation of a gifted footballer rotting in the reserves.
It would be interesting, though, to see how Tottenham would respond in the event of a permanent offer from PSG. Dele Alli is an issue over which Levy and Mourinho are likely to be divided.