Dele Alli has explained how a career in football saved him from becoming embroiled in a life that would have led him down a dark road.
The Tottenham superstar has become the poster boy for English football thanks to his scintillating performances for club and country, but his current life is a far cry from the one he used to know growing up as a teenager.
In a revealing interview with the September edition of GQ magazine, Alli explained that he had fallen in with the wrong crowd as a 12-year-old boy, and it wasn’t until a possible footballing career came about that he decided to change his ways and walk away from a potential life in the doldrums.
He said: “I got into trouble a few times when I was younger. I hung around with the wrong people when I was real young. With the older boys, I tried to do what they did. We weren’t in a very good area.
“[Football] gave me the opportunity to actually put my energy into something else than hanging out on the street at 12 years old until 2am.”
Alli worked his way up through the youth ranks at former club MK Dons before a £5m switch to White Hart Lane with Spurs came to fruition in February 2015, and the 21-year-old hasn’t looked back since.
His displays for Tottenham and England have earned him rave reviews – and filled gossip columns with talk of big-money moves to La Liga with Real Madrid or Barcelona – but Alli seems only concerned with helping Mauricio Pochettino’s men end their wait for silverware right now.
“I think we’re inches away from it [the Premier League title]. Maybe another player or two players is all we need," he said.
The attacking midfielder has become renowned for his goal-scoring ability across Europe, but plenty of fans have thrown stick at Alli and his team-mates for their rather embarrassing celebratory handshakes after goals are scored. Alli, though, added that those pre-made celebrations were down to one fellow Spurs player in particular and insisted that the over-elaborate shakes take ages to execute properly!
He said: “Son (Heung-Min) has one of those for everyone and he insists on doing each of them every morning when he comes into training. It takes ages!”