Liverpool reject Alli is new Spurs star, says Neil Humphreys
Rejected by Reds, Alli is now Tottenham's top player
(Aaron Lennon 22)
(Dele Alli 45+1)
Brendan Rodgers made many mistakes at Liverpool, but his biggest blunder is revealing itself only now.
In time, the sacked manager may join an unenviable club of shortsighted halfwits.
Like the man at Decca Records who rejected The Beatles, or the publisher who turned down a kids' book about a boy wizard, Rodgers did what defenders are doing most weekends.
He let Dele Alli get away.
Liverpool's loss is obviously Tottenham's huge gain. The boy represents Spurs' greatest chance of breaking into the top four.
It's only a whisper, but there is even talk of the title. Like his namesake, Alli (right) shook up the world against Everton yesterday morning (Singapore time).
His volleyed goal was sublime, but the preceding run sticks in the memory. Sprinting between Seamus Coleman and John Stones, Alli danced in the shadow of Paul Gascoigne.
With every lunging stride, the 19-year-old stepped back in time.
The rampaging No. 10 was thought to be an endangered species, but Alli just brought him back. He pinched a point for Tottenham and embarrassed his opposite number.
Ross Barkley had once carried the "next Gazza" tag, but appears overburdened by the responsibility. The Everton midfielder drifts in and out of games.
Alli positively dominates them.
The teenager is blessed with the rare ability to pivot with his back to goal to feed others, while still being adept at dropping deep so he can run in behind.
His Everton finish was practically a photocopy of his opener against West Brom last month. At centre back, Toby Alderweireld delivered the long, diagonal pass into Alli's path. In both instances, the finish was unerring.
In an era of sterile possession interrupted by quick bursts of counter-pressing, Alli feels like a throwback. He bolts between the lines, collects the ball, turns on his heels and accelerates towards goal, practically beeping at panting defenders playing Wile E. Coyote to his Roadrunner.
He ended with six attempts on goal against Everton, an outstanding figure twice as high as anyone else on the pitch.
Like Gascoigne, Alli dashes around with the giddy enthusiasm of a tongue-flapping dog waiting for another bone to chase. His confidence derives from an exquisite first touch.
He caresses the ball like a museum curator handling a priceless exhibit, displaying a frightening level of maturity that's rapidly making him Tottenham's most valuable player.
Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela are both shining with the Sundance Kid between them and Harry Kane thrives on his regular service.
Youth often trumps fear, but there's nothing reckless about Alli's game. His muscular runs are incisive rather than impetuous. He's bringing back the box-to-box midfielder.
Gascoigne and Steven Gerrard share the DNA, not to mention the lung capacity, but Alli pretty much stands alone in a league filled with anchormen and pocket dynamos.
His unique qualities not only underscore his incomparable value to Spurs, but also Liverpool's folly.
How did the Reds allow this one to slip away? Their central midfield triangle of Lucas Leiva and Emre Can, with Roberto Firmino at the apex, were not so much beaten at West Ham as it was bypassed. It scarcely existed.
Adam Lallana started on the bench, a luxury item bought for £25 million ($52m). Around the time that Liverpool were falling for Lallana, the club were made aware of Alli's availability.
The MK Dons player was a Liverpool fan. His signature came with just a £5m price tag. But Rodgers and the Keystone Cops, occasionally known as the Liverpool transfer committee, chose to look elsewhere.
Rodgers wasn't sure of Alli's potential and didn't want to risk £5m. So £45m was lavished on Lallana and Lazar Markovic instead.
After another embarrassing loss at West Ham, Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp struggled to contain his anger.
After watching Alli run riot at Everton, he would have struggled not to kick his TV.
Alli offered a cruel reminder of everything Liverpool do not have - a refreshingly quick, alternative attacking outlet. His direct running and his eagerness to bulldoze back fours are conspicuous by their absence elsewhere.
Arsenal, Manchester City and, most certainly Chelsea and Manchester United, could use a jack in the box like Alli.
Too many contests between title contenders have descended into a midfield battle of the crabs this season, but Spurs' sensation has been a welcome antidote to the sideways snoozing.
He's permanently on fast forward. Liverpool, stuck in rewind, can only dream of what might have been.
Tottenham, on the other hand, might start dreaming of silverware.
"I’m a big Ross Barkley fan but, if I had to pick a team for Euro 2016 tomorrow, Dele Alli would shade it for me. Alli is the closest I’ve seen to a young Steven Gerrard. He has everything. Barkley... is a special player. But, in the battle of the wannabe heavyweights, Alli has the edge."
- Former Liverpool and Tottenham midfielder Jamie Redknapp on Dele Alli
DID YOU KNOW?
- Dele Alli’s full name is actually Bamidele Alli. It’s “Dele” in short.
- Alli is actually a Liverpool fan. Steven Gerrard is his idol.
- Earlier this year, former Wimbledon striker John Fashanu tried to persuade Alli to play his international football for Nigeria.
- Crystal Palace 0 Chelsea 3
Pochettino: League title a possibility
Tottenham have not been English champions since 1961 and, while their priority is a top-four finish to qualify for the Champions League, a title challenge is realistic this season.
A measure of Spurs' progress under coach Mauricio Pochettino was the sense of disappointment with a 1-1 draw against Everton in the Premier League at Goodison Park yesterday morning (Singapore time) .
Fourth-placed Spurs are six points adrift of leaders Arsenal, four off Leicester City and three behind third-placed Manchester City.
They have lost only twice in the league this season, boast the best defensive record and the joint-best goal difference.
When asked after the match about his team's title chances, Pochettino (picture above) said: "It is too early to speak about that. I think the way we are, all can happen.
"Normally, we have music in the dressing room. We did not after this game because we are disappointed. Maybe tomorrow we can feel proud we have a point, but now, we feel this is two points lost.
"This is good for the future and I'm really pleased because it shows we have a winning mentality."
- Wire Services.
WHAT OTHERS SAY
"It is time for Tottenham to fix their sights on winning the Premier League. In this extraordinary season, with Chelsea falling by the wayside, Manchester United weaker than ever, Manchester City inconsistent and even Arsenal prone to some awful performances, they have an opportunity which may not present itself again. The last time Tottenham challenged for the title was my final season at the club in 1986- 87... And we weren’t anywhere near as close to the top at this stage of the season (than this current team)."
- Former Tottenham manager Glenn Hoddle (above)
“I think they are title contenders, they’ve got lots of young, enthusiastic players, fresh legs in midfield, they can chop and change that. They’ve got a fabulous goalkeeper.”
- Former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness (above)
“Spurs are massive outsiders for the title but anything other than top four challenge will be a real failure.”
- Former Man United and Leicester midfielder Robbie Savage (above)