Dier revelling in his new lease of life provided by Jose's arrival at Spurs
One can forgive Eric Dier for feeling a tinge of jealousy. It is four years since the midfielder, who grew up in Portugal, made his England debut in a friendly against Spain after excelling in Mauricio Pochettino's young Tottenham side that would go on to finish third behind Leicester's miracle-makers in 2016.
Along with Harry Kane and Dele Alli, Dier, below, was once the heartbeat of the Pochettino revolution before losing his place during the last 18 months of the Argentinian's reign. But while the appointment of Jose Mourinho has given the 25-year-old a new lease of life as well as someone to practise his Portuguese with, Dier says he has been impressed by the emergence of Chelsea's new generation of English players, as he contemplates their visit to north London.
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"I see a lot of us four years ago in this Chelsea team," he says. "I think there's a lot of similarities from when we started out with Pochettino and what Chelsea are doing now, and it's really nice to see all these young players getting a chance there, and not just getting a chance but proving they deserve their chance.
"They're performing at a consistent level, which is really good, and they all look very hungry which is good for people that are a bit older. They're pushing everyone. They have a young manager as well and they seem to be playing a very good style of football."
The rapid development of Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and the rest under Frank Lampard has helped to raise the bar at international level, with competition to be included in Gareth Southgate's squad for Euro 2020 set to be fierce, especially in midfield. Dier has not been selected since the third-place play-off against Switzerland in the Nations League in the summer and is hoping his re-emergence under Mourinho can help his case.
"From an England point of view the most important thing for me is that, if I look after myself and I look after trying to play well for Tottenham, then I know that everything else will take care of itself," he says. "I try and take care of Tottenham and hopefully from there I can get to a place where I can be back in the England squad."
Born in Cheltenham, Dier moved to Lisbon with his family at the age of seven, partly due to his mother being offered a job running the hospitality programme for the 2004 European Championship. In Sporting's youth side he was coached by Mourinho's godson, Thiago Fernandes, who had a spell as caretaker manager of Cristiano Ronaldo's former club last season, and Dier says he is enjoying the opportunity of working with one of Portugal's most famous exports.
"In Portugal there are two people that are bigger than anything else, and it's him and Ronaldo," says Dier. "Growing up there and living that experience gave me a different perspective. He makes you feel very comfortable around him. He's very approachable. He's got a lot of energy. He's at training every day, he's really involved. You can bump into him anywhere. He's always around the place. You feel very comfortable talking to him. He's a winner. He wants to win. I've really enjoyed learning new things.
"I feel very lucky to have worked under Pochettino and now Mourinho. I just see it as a great opportunity to learn from another great manager, one of the best there's ever been. It's a great opportunity to learn new things."
Their conversations usually take place in Portuguese; Dier insists his grasp is "as good as my English". While he has won all four of the Premier League games he has started under Mourinho, being substituted in the 29th minute of the Champions League group stage match against Olympiakos in November - after the Greek side scored twice in the opening stages - was not a night that will live long in his memory.
"It's never happened before and it's not something you ever want to happen," Dier says of being replaced so early. "It's not a good sign, is it? So you're upset but I completely understood his reasons. He spoke to me after the game and I understood his reasons and we were losing 2-0. I always say we were losing 2-0 and we won 4-2 so he was right."
That willingness to learn and their cultural affinity are likely to stand him in good stead, with Dier expected to start against Chelsea as Tottenham hope to leapfrog their London rivals into fourth. From being eight points behind when Pochettino was sacked on November 19, Spurs have picked up five wins out of six and look destined to qualify for the Champions League if they can maintain their momentum under Mourinho.
"When a new manager arrives or in any walk of life there's new stimulus, you have to think about different things," Dier adds. "This manager wants some things in different ways, some things the same, so that all gives you a new stimulus that you have to try and learn and improve at. So you have to change, which is always good for your mind. In that sense it's been very enjoyable."
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