Alli promises to 'come back stronger' after season of twin disappointments
There was an amusing moment at a community event here in Shanghai yesterday when Dele Alli hit the deck after being fouled by one of the children chosen to play in a short match against the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder and his team-mates, Harry Kane, Erik Lamela and Juan Foyth.
Alli picked himself up to score the resulting penalty, and picking himself up after the twin disappointments of an injury-ravaged campaign and defeat in the Champions League final is what he plans to do next season as both he and Tottenham aim to come back stronger.
They were new experiences for Alli and, as he casts his mind back to the night in Madrid when Spurs came up short against a Liverpool side who seemed there for the taking and reflects on the 14 weeks lost to injuries prior to that, it is clear the 23-year-old wants to answer some questions, as much in his own mind as anything else.
"It was difficult to take, getting to the final and not getting over the line," says Alli. "We're disappointed as a team, but we've got to try and use it as an advantage to drive us on next season - use that hurt we felt after the game, and that we're still feeling now when we think about it.
"It was a difficult season for me in terms of injuries - it was the most injuries I've ever had in one season.
"So I've got to use it all to go forward, not think about it in a negative way, and make sure that doesn't happen again."
After last summer's exertions at the World Cup finals with England, this summer offered Alli time to relax and recharge his batteries after a particularly draining 12 months - emotionally as much as physically.
In that regard, then, he was dismayed to find himself pictured on the front page of a tabloid newspaper this month reputedly looking worse for wear while on holiday on the Greek island of Mykonos with his girlfriend, Ruby Mae. Alli laughs when the subject is raised before the smile, understandably, fades.
"It's not funny. I can't say it's funny, because it's not," he says. "It was important I had some down-time. I'm 23 years old, I'm going to have some fun with my friends. As long as I'm still being professional, still doing the right things... I've come back in pre-season feeling strong, feeling good and I'm ready for the season to start."
Spurs are due to face Manchester United at the Hongkou Stadium tomorrow lunchtime as they step up their pre-season preparations and Alli will again be a central figure for Mauricio Pochettino. His versatility has allowed the Spurs manager to use him in different roles, but having found the net 22 times in only his second season with Tottenham as a 20-year-old, Alli knows that there are people who will judge him primarily on his goal output.
Last season yielded just seven, albeit from a reduced number of games brought about by repeat hamstring problems, a thigh injury and fractured hand, but Alli insists he does not get hung up on statistics.
"It's always nice to score and get assists, but that's not all I'm about as a player," he said. "With my style of play, I don't think it matters too much if I'm getting goals or assists. I don't think that means I've had a bad game or I'm not playing well.
"Sometimes, defensively or off the ball, I'm making space for other players. I think that's all important.
"Last season was the best I've had in terms of learning as a player. I'm still young, I'm still improving. I've just got to make sure this season I come back stronger." (© Daily Telegraph, London)