Tuesday 6 December 2016

Mauricio Pochettino backs Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli to handle the hype

Published 31/03/2016 | 14:51

Mauricio Pochettino's side will be strengthened by the return of Toby Alderweireld ahead of the title run-in
Mauricio Pochettino's side will be strengthened by the return of Toby Alderweireld ahead of the title run-in

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is confident Dele Alli can handle the hype after Sir Alex Ferguson said he was the most talented midfielder since Paul Gascoigne.

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Alli has seven goals and 12 assists already in his debut season in the Barclays Premier League and he proved his international class last weekend with a superb performance against Germany.

England manager Roy Hodgson likened Alli to former England midfielder Bryan Robson and Ferguson has added his own praise for the 19-year-old, telling Sky Sports he is "probably the best young midfielder I have seen in many years, probably going back as far as Gascoigne."

Pochettino has been eager to contain the expectation surrounding his young star but the Argentine has no concerns about Alli wilting under the pressure.

"It's very good praise from one of the best managers in football history. I can only agree with him," Pochettino said of Ferguson's comments.

"Am I worried about the hype? No, you can see the whole season how he has managed the pressure. He is very calm, very mature.

"He has managed the pressure and the popularity and how to be a senior player and play for the national team. He is very calm.

"We always need to be aware and look after him. We have a lot of control about that. Only he can go down if you are not aware but we look after him in a good way.

"Now he is fresh, at a good level, he has a good mentality. He is mature enough. We have no worries about his future."

On Saturday Tottenham take on Liverpool, a club Alli came close to joining when he was on the brink of leaving MK Dons.

Alli was driven up to Anfield by Dons manager Karl Robinson and even met then-manager Brendan Rodgers, only for the Merseyside club to stall on the deal.

Liverpool's loss has been Tottenham's gain but Pochettino admits even he has been surprised by the speed of Alli's progress.

"There is always a question mark with a young player," Pochettino said.

"You can assess his left and right foot, his performance on the pitch and in training. But how a young player can be affected by the big things that happen in football, being a senior player, being in the national team, this is always a question mark.

"You can be aware and try to support him but I think that all the same it has surprised us how he has shown maturity."

Victory at Anfield would see Tottenham reduce the gap behind Leicester to two points, with the Foxes not playing Southampton until Sunday.

It is the only time in the run-in Spurs get to play before the league leaders but Pochettino insists his side must focus on themselves.

"We need to try and win every single game and wait for Leicester to drop points," Pochettino said. "But we have no focus on the seven games, we are focused on Saturday, the most important game. We try to win the game and wait to see what happens in another stadium.

"We are focused on our game try to perform well and win and wait to see what happens because it doesn't only depend on us but 99 per cent it depends on us to fight until the end of the season for the title."

Toby Alderweireld has recovered from a stomach bug and is expected to be fit for Saturday while fellow defender Jan Vertonghen is back in training after overcoming a knee injury, and while this weekend will come too soon for the Belgian, he could be available to face Manchester United on April 10.

Press Association

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