The 20-year-old has been on a steep learning curve since joining Tottenham from MK Dons in 2015 and his debut year was littered with incidents of what Mauricio Pochettino described as “devilment” as he came to terms with the cut and thrust of the top flight.
It culminated in a five-game ban for punching Claudio Yacob of West Brom in an off-the-ball incident at the end of last season.
But since he has been back, Alli has impressed his manager as one of a number of potential leaders in the Tottenham dressing room and he feels the England international could one day be the figurehead of the club.
“Every player has the quality and capacity to be a leader, they just need time to develop them,” Pochettino said. “It is important we have Hugo Lloris, the captain of France, as our skipper, because with his experience he can give better advice.
“But Alli, with his personality and character, maybe he will become a leader in a few years. It’s important to have good character and always work to win. It is not just about saying, ‘I want to win’, you need to show you want it with behaviour, attitude.
Dele Alli has been in phenomenal form for Tottenham this season
“Enthusiasm is important, your own motivation. If you have character and good personality and you are a leader, it’s a natural quality.
“I am happy with the personality and the way they move in the changing room, and our performance is good. We can win or lose but I am very happy.”
Eric Dier, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen have all worn the armband this season as well as Lloris, showing the sort of leadership qualities in the dressing room that tomorrow’s opponents Liverpool have been accused of lacking.
Pochettino focuses as much on character as ability when considering players for the club. And yesterday he confirmed the appointment as the club’s new scout Steve Hitchen, the man credited with unearthing Luka Modric during his previous spell at Spurs and Luis Suarez at Liverpool.
“Recruitment is always important,” Pochettino said. “We talk a lot about that with the chairman Daniel Levy, how important it is for us.
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Mauricio Pochettino believes Dele Alli can be a future Tottenham captain
“It’s true that we are in a position where it is difficult to compete with the big clubs that in the last five to ten years have invested a lot of money every season.
“That’s why we need to be creative, smart and clever. Not too clever because when you try to be too clever it’s not good. But it’s important to be creative.”
In that way, Pochettino makes no bones about competing with the big boys.
“Sometimes we say if we don’t get Champions League or Europa League it might be difficult to extend the contract of players who want to win but come on, Tottenham is bigger than anyone,” he said.
“Tottenham is a big club with a big history, big fans and in the very short future will be one of the best teams about facilities, this new stadium.
Mauricio Pochettino praised Dele Alli for his level of maturity
“The important thing is that Tottenham wants to give me the chance to manage here for a long time. That is the most important and sets the principle when you arrive here as manager, coach, player, you feel the responsibility is to work, achieve big things.
“It’s not enough to be in top four, five or six and play in the Europa League.”
Spurs’ hopes of maintaining their title bid this season were given a boost by the news that the knock to the knee which forced Danny Rose to limp out of last month’s goalless draw against Sunderland did not cause any ligament damage.
Pochettino is refusing to put a time limit on the absence, but a scan on Monday confirmed it is likely to be weeks rather than months.
“He went to see the specialist just to confirm what we saw on the scan, and since that he is doing his rehab,” it was revealed. “He has not serious ligament damage. That is why we want to make sure.”