It’s hard to mentor wildly talented, egotistical, young, impressionable people. Just ask Luke Skywalker.
His time training Kylo Ren ended so badly Ren decided the Dark Side was a better option, complete with creepy Vader mask and all. So convinced was Ren that Skywalker was set to betray him, he went to Snoke and we all know what happened after that. Luke Skywalker then went into hiding on an island where no one could find him - or so he thought - contemplating his failings.
Jose Mourinho may have failed as spectacularly at Manchester United when it came to Paul Pogba, but Mourinho wasn’t going to a remote island to hide. He was front and centre on Sky Sports and made it clear from the minute Mauricio Pochettino looked in trouble that he wanted the job with a cunning that Darth Sidious would have been proud of. Roll on a few weeks and Mourinho was employed again.
If his time at Manchester United went as well as Jar Jar Binks’ inclusion in the Star Wars prequels, Spurs are A New Hope. He assessed the squad and decided it was the one for him, with a decent midfield and a frighteningly good forward line. Task one for Mourinho was to get Dele Alli firing again.
Alli isn’t a young Padawan who needs training in the ways of the force though. He’s shown plenty of times that he’s as capable as they come, but he certainly needed a change of Master.
Under Pochettino, his form stalled and while injuries certainly took their toll, there was clearly more to it than that, and he ended up being dropped from the England squad to boot. It looked like a long way back for him given the talent on offer in the attacking positions for Gareth Southgate to pick from. Alli needed to up his game and fast.
Luckily for him, Master Yoda arrived in the form of Mourinho and the change has been remarkable. In Mourinho’s first game, a display of tenacity and sheer talent from Alli saw the ball kept in play in the build-up to a goal, getting everyone off their seats and wondering whether he could well be back to his best.
Well fire up the Millennium Falcon, because he is, and then some. He’s already scored more goals this season under Mourinho than he managed under Pochettino, and he doesn’t look like slowing down either. He’s becoming one of the first names on the team sheet, and while Mourinho is playing down his ego at the minute in order to win over the Spurs fans who still aren’t keen that he’s their new manager, make no mistake the Spurs boss will credit himself with that turnaround in form.
Arriving at the club and asking Alli if it was him or his brother playing was classic Mourinho manipulation, particularly in the element of him joking about it in the media. It ensured that the spotlight was firmly on Alli’s form.
It worked tenfold and now you’d be hard pressed not to think Dele deserves a place in the upcoming England squads providing this form continues.
He’s a key player for both his club and his country, and it’s easy to forget how young he is, given it seems like he’s been around for years. At only 23 years old, he’s not finished developing yet and is streets ahead of some players at that age. Pochettino deserves a huge amount of credit for getting Alli to where he is. But someone else was clearly needed to take him all the way - and being a key part in a side that actually wins trophies would certainly do that.
There’s no bigger winner than Mourinho, no one who is more pragmatic and who knows what to do to get his side where they need to be. Jose has made it clear he sees Alli as one of the attackers in his side, a real goal threat - not just someone who plays in the middle of the park, and if he is targeting a huge goal return from the player, we could see something very special.
Mourinho sides have - at their best - always had a big threat of goals from different sources. Chelsea’s Frank Lampard is the biggest example here, and it was so clearly what he wanted from Paul Pogba but failed to get on a consistent basis. While Alli is a different type of player, Mourinho will be expecting him to get into double figures this season and progress from that point.
Of course, we’ve seen Mourinho implosions before when things go south quicker than they did for the Titanic after it hit the iceberg, but he knows this has to work at Spurs. He has to win something big and repair his reputation - and Dele Alli is as key to that as a lightsaber is to a Jedi.