Dele Alli vs James Maddison: Two 25-Year-Olds With Different Career Trajectories

One is taking the Premier League by storm, while the other could be heading for the exit door
06:55, 16 Dec 2021

Tottenham Hotspur’s 25-year-old midfielder Dele Alli looks well set to be on his way out of the club in January. When the team play Leicester City at the King Power on Thursday, he almost certainly won’t get any gametime, whereas the man just seven months his junior, wearing the number ten for the Foxes, is likely to play a starring role. 

It’s been a turbulent time for Dele over the past few years. Yet his rise to the top of English football was supersonic, almost unlike anything we have ever seen before. At the age of 16 he was playing regularly in League One with MK Dons, and by 19 he had secured his £5m move to the Premier League.

Yet Dele’s talent meant that he wasn’t going to be a squad player, or sent out on loan to the Championship. He proved within months he was good enough to star in this Tottenham side and in his first season at the club, he almost won the Premier League, as Spurs lost out to Leicester City in the most surprising title win we have ever seen. 

In Mauricio Pochettino, he had found his perfect manager, the man who could get the very best out of him and the man who allowed him to flourish with Harry Kane. Together, they formed part of an incredible squad that almost won the Premier League and narrowly lost a Champions League final. 

It seems Alli had a drive and passion to be the best, and even if his relaxed style made him appear lazy at times, his talent was harnessed to its maximum. Then Pochettino departed and Spurs regressed. Unfortunately, despite keeping hold of the likes of Kane and Dele as they looked to move forward, those players have regressed massively as well. 

The 25-year-old flopped under Pochettino’s successor Jose Mourinho, and the Portuguese boss perhaps described his rapid rise to the top of English football in the most concise fashion, on Amazon’s All or Nothing. 

“I have no doubts about your potential. I saw you do incredible matches and incredible things, but I always felt you had ups and downs... One day I think you will regret [it] if you don't reach what you can reach.”

Dele couldn’t get going under the disciplinarian, but even when he was afforded several chances under Nuno Espirito Santo, starting the first six games of the season, he underperformed, scoring just one goal from the penalty spot in that time. Now under Antonio Conte, he has played just two minutes in the league off the bench. 

Players go through difficult spells, that is obvious, but this long period of underperformance has led Spurs to look at getting rid in January. It’s quite the contrast to Maddison, was also out of form earlier in the season. With Leicester chopping and changing formation, he was sometimes played out wide, but now looks to have found his form in front of goal in recent weeks. 

Having scored just once in the opening 12 league matches, Maddison now has three goals and three assists in his last four. It is easy to draw comparisons between the two careers, given they are both the same age and Maddison played for Coventry in League One as a teenager, but perhaps his longer route to the top has allowed him to keep his work ethic. 

He was loaned back to Coventry after Norwich bought him, then sent to toughen up in Scotland with Aberdeen, before eventually breaking through under Daniel Farke in the Championship. A £24m move to Leiecester materialised and since then, Maddison has been working to get himself in the England squad, although he still has some way to go to achieve that particular goal. 

Despite playing a key role in England’s run to the semi-finals in Russia, Alli is well down the pecking order for his country. The likes of Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Maddison himself, Emile Smith Rowe and Conor Gallagher have all surpassed the semi-final starter and now his career is in serious need of resuscitation. 

A January move could provide a much-needed fresh start for Dele, while Maddison’s stock is back in the green. 

Spurs are 2/1 to beat Leicester with Betfred*

*18+ | BeGambleAware

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