Roy Hodgson has claimed Dele Alli could develop into an international player of the stature of Bryan Robson after insisting that the Tottenham teenager possesses the ability to “do anything” in midfield.
Alli, who completed a £5m transfer from MK Dons to White Hart Lane last summer, will win his fifth England cap against Germany in Berlin tonight after becoming an integral part of Hodgson’s plans for Euro 2016 following a hugely impressive debut season in the Premier League.
The 19-year-old has developed a productive relationship with centre-forward Harry Kane at Spurs, creating seven league goals for his England team-mate, but with Alli showcasing an ability to cover the central third of the pitch and create chances further forward, Hodgson believes that the youngster has every chance of emulating Robson, “Captain Marvel” for Manchester United and England.
“He could do anything in that midfield position,” Hodgson said. “He could be box to box, a No 10, if you like, or even a No 6. He could be any of them. He has genuine all-round ability. He can challenge, run, fight for the ball, see a pass, score a goal. You mention Bryan Robson: that’s the player I’d like to think he could become.
“But he’s 19. It’s dangerous, these things. He’s at the start of his career, one we hope will be very long. But we believe in him. He wouldn’t be in the team if I didn’t believe in him.”
Hodgson was questioned earlier this season when he handed Alli his first cap against Estonia in October, just two months into his Premier League career, but the England manager claims his talent was evident from an early stage after his move to Tottenham. “I’m impressed with the way he’s been all season,” Hodgson said. “Whenever you have a player that young, and when you recognise his talent despite the fact he’s 19 and hasn’t played for the U21s, that’s a bold decision to make, to put you in the squad and play him.
“But Ray Lewington, Gary Neville and myself are convinced he has the capacity and ability to play, so we took the chance and have been rewarded. He’s now got some games to show what he did against France, and as a sub in one or two other performances, on a regular basis.”
Alli was accused of having a “lot to learn about elite football” by Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino following a clash with Fiorentina’s Nenad Tomovic last month, with Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew also criticising the youngster in the wake of an incident with Yohan Cabaye in January.
Hodgson insists, however, that he has no concerns over Alli’s attitude. “A player’s temperament is often what brought him to the position he enjoys,” Hodgson said. “I’ve not seen anything worrisome in it.”
Hodgson, who will make wholesale changes against the Netherlands at Wembley on Tuesday in order to assess the claims of every player in his squad, has handed Gary Cahill the captaincy for tonight’s game in Berlin. But the Chelsea defender admits he will face the Germans having endured a difficult campaign at Stamford Bridge.
“It’s been a tough season, with all the changes,” Cahill said. “I’m happy that I’m back in the team, especially leading up to an important tournament. That’s why I was so concerned when I was out of the team, but I feel fit, I’m playing OK at Chelsea and the most important thing is I’m back out on the field and can show what I can do.
“No one wants to be satisfied sitting at a big club if you’re not playing every week. I’ve always been playing in my career. You’re not going to play every game, so you have to work harder when you’re out. But it’s important to be playing going into a big tournament.”