Dele Alli has turned into one of the biggest enigmas at Tottenham Hotspur. How can a once key member of the first-team find himself in yet another slump?
It comes after Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday evening that the midfielder would be left out of the Spurs squad when they travel to Burnley in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup.
Dele though is not injured, and he is certainly not being rested having not played a single Premier League minute in any of the club’s last three games.
Dele Alli’s Tottenham Hotspur future is unclear after being snubbed for a trip to Burnley
Dele has been left out of Nuno Espirito Santo’s side ahead of the Carabao Cup fourth-round tie
Aside from appearances as part of the second string side in the European Conference League, he has effectively become a forgotten man since being substituted at half-time when Spurs were 3-0 down at bitter rivals Arsenal last month.
Dele’s Tottenham career at least looked like getting back on track when he started the first six games of the season, even netting a penalty to grab a 1-0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Although a mixed bag of results – three wins, three defeats – the midfielder looked energetic on the pitch and certainly didn’t cut the body language of a player simply going through the motions.
But the spark that saw him dazzle in an attack featuring a peak Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen under Mauricio Pochettino during his best years between 2015 and 2018 looks a very long time ago now.
Under Nuno, Dele had started Tottenham’s first six league games, scoring against Wolves
But he has still looked a long way from his best days where he starred alongside Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen, the trio pictured above in a 2018 FA Cup semi-final against Man Utd
Many blame Jose Mourinho’s arrival for the rapid decline of Dele but he has not looked right at Tottenham since starring in England’s run to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, and especially since returning from a thigh injury suffered at the start of 2019 that kept him out for two months.
It coincides with Tottenham’s alarming Premier League slump during that period one that started in the final 11 months of Pochettino’s reign – so this is more than Dele still trying to get over a Jose hangover.
You could actually argue that it was under Mourinho that Dele has played his best football in the last three years. He was arguably Tottenham’s best player at the start of the Portuguese’s tenure – scoring three times and providing as many assists in just four games.
It didn’t last though and his form tailed off. After being substituted in the opening day defeat by Everton last season he was effectively banished from Mourinho’s Premier League plans.
Dele has struggled in the last three years, but did enjoy the start of Jose Mourinho’s tenure
However he soon fell out of favour under the Portuguese, leading to his omission from the side
Mourinho even wanted to offload Dele to Paris Saint-Germain back in January only for chairman Daniel Levy to go against any sort of transfer – despite the now fractious relationship between the pair.
Even in the Conference League this term he has failed to produce anything like a performance that would make him worthy of a starting XI place in the Premier League. After all, if you can’t stand out among some of Europe’s weakest squads that would struggle in England’s top flight, where are you going to shine?
But rather than give up on Dele, Nuno has claimed he wants to help the midfielder find his best form.
He said last week: ‘All the players in our squad, we have to realise that during their careers there are ups and downs,’ Nuno said. ‘It is my job to try and make the best out of them, Dele included.
Dele hasn’t played a Premier League minute since being subbed at half-time against Arsenal in Tottenham’s humiliating north London derby defeat at the Emirates Stadium last month
Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo has stated he wants to help Dele get back to his best
‘I don’t look individually when I judge them, I am very fair. Dele started very well in the competition and now he is not in his best moment so it is up to us to get him back in the best moment he can.
‘He is working hard, he’s committed, so we have to support and find the right solutions to give him confidence so we can have him back in the best way he can.’
In truth, very few Tottenham players have looked like star performers in what has been a rocky start under Nuno since his arrival on the eve of pre-season, but it does appear Dele also has off-the field distractions.
Dele split with his model girlfriend of five years Ruby Mae back in February, a move which reportedly left the midfielder ‘gutted’.
Dele was left ‘gutted’ over his split from his model girlfriend of five years Ruby Mae
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola stands with the Community Shield trophy in 2017 and wife Cristina Serra and their children Valentina, Maria and Marius
But he has been seeing Pep Guardiola’s daughter Maria recently, being spotted earlier this month having a lunch and coffee date with her in Mayfair.
It follows five months on after they were seen kissing on a London rooftop bar back in May.
MailOnline contacted Dele’s representatives for comment following their date in Mayfair and his spokesman said there would be no comment on his private life.
However the midfielder has also been reported to have been in close contact with Nicole Berry, a newcomer in reality series Made in Chelsea.
Dele has recently been spotted cuddled up with Made In Chelsea newcomer Nicole Berry
Dele has been enjoying his life off the pitch while living near London during his time at Spurs
In a picture obtained by the Sun, Dele and Nicole held hands and cuddled up together during a dinner at Sexy Fish restaurant, also in Mayfair.
Despite the nature of the image, representatives denied a union between the pair.
As busy as Dele’s life has been off the pitch he now must find a way to become a regular back on it having also fallen well off the radar for a place in the England set-up.
He hasn’t featured since starting in the Nations League third-place play-off win over Switzerland in June 2019 and his place in the Three Lions set-up has long since been eclipsed by the likes of Jack Grealish, Mason Mount and Phil Foden.
But his football career is stalling once again at the club, and his future is far from certain
Once more, Dele’s career at Tottenham is stalling but having struggled for nearly three years at the club, there does come a point where both parties have to consider what is mutually best.
For Tottenham, offloading a player who under three managers now, and a fourth if you include Ryan Mason’s spell as caretaker last season, has been unable to rediscover past glories may be seen as their best option.
While Dele has been enjoying some of the benefits of living in London, his time on the pitch is certainly not among them right now. A January move should not be ruled out as a once blossoming career in north London again appears to be coming to a halt.