While the quality of Spurs’ opponent is a valid argument to not get carried away with the performance, the manner in how Alli did it will give Spurs fans hope that he’s back to his best – and his ‘brother’ is left on the sidelines for good.
Having sat the first half of the season out, Alli had become Tottenham’s forgotten man with images of the forward wrapped up in a coat on the bench becoming an all-too familiar sight, leaving many to scratch their heads and ponder over why he wasn’t playing.
Dele Alli is a man reborn after putting in a man-of-the-match performance on Wednesday
The 24-year-old scored a stunning overhead kick in Spurs’ 4-0 win over Wolfsberger AC
Questions over his attitude were asked while the months of December and January were dominated by the idea that Alli would leave and join former boss Mauricio Pochettino at Paris Saint-Germain.
With so much uncertainty around his Spurs future, it was not an issue of if he would leave, but when, as the French giants looked to seal a loan move in the winter window.
Mourinho appeared to be all for it. Chairman Daniel Levy, on the other hand, was not so keen to let one of his prized assets go so easily.
The events that led up to Alli’s near-departure can be traced back to Mourinho’s arrival at Spurs.
A partnership between Alli and Mourinho initially looked like a match made in heaven, which saw Alli become the the go-to man after netting eight goals in Mourinho’s first eight games in charge.
Alli got off to a flying start under Jose Mourinho (right), with the Spurs boss jokingly asking the midfielder in his first training session if he was talking to ‘Dele Alli or Dele Alli’s brother’
However, the wheels started to fall off for Alli last year before the Covid pandemic hit football
Alli looked refreshed after a torrid run in Pochettino’s final months in charge, which even saw Mourinho joke with the midfielder in his first training session if he was talking to ‘Dele Alli or Dele Alli’s brother’.
However, following that good start, things began to turn sour behind the scenes and it was all captured in the club’s All Or Nothing documentary-series on Amazon Prime.
Mourinho branded Alli’s training efforts as ‘lazy’ before the player showed his frustration with the manager’s ‘long-ball’ tactics at half-time during their Champions League home defeat by RB Leipzig.
Then, with football taking an extended break due to the global Covid outbreak, the magic never returned and Alli was ousted from Mourinho’s plans, while a muscle injury also did the 24-year-old no favours last season.
While he enjoyed a promising pre-season, which earned him plaudits from Eric Dier and Mourinho himself who claimed they could see the ‘old Dele Alli’ in training sessions, the hype was short-lived and he was hooked just 45 minutes into Spurs’ opening game of the season – a 1-0 defeat at home by Everton.
Since then, Alli has been reduced to cameo appearances and was linked with a move away
The 24-year-old was hoping to be reunited with former boss Mauricio Pochettino (left) at PSG
Since then, it appeared as if the writing was on the wall for Alli, who was reduced to cameo appearances in the cups while hardly playing any part in the league campaign for Spurs.
His performance in the 7-0 FA Cup win over Marine got him back in Mourinho’s good books temporarily, just a fortnight after the Portuguese boss lambasted him for needlessly giving away possession that led to a Stoke goal in their Carabao Cup encounter.
Despite this, Alli and his talents were left to rot on the bench with Mourinho seeing no need for him in his starting XI as the days and hours ticked down to deadline day.
But with no replacement found for him, Alli stayed and a truce was reached between player and manager.
‘I had a good conversation with him yesterday, I think we found a very common ground. It is an important period of the season for the team and for him also,’ Mourinho said at the beginning of this month.
‘We need him. We need a good Dele Alli. We are just waiting for him to be back to normality, to training with the team.’
He put in a good display against eighth-tier side Marine in the FA Cup back in January
Despite initially giving him the green light to leave, Jose changed his mind and called a truce
And as it turns out, Mourinho got just that.
Since recovering from a tendon injury, Alli has gone on to feature in Tottenham’s last five games, with his overhead-kick stunner and two assists the just reward for his hard work in recent weeks.
While he is still returning to full match fitness, the signs are pointing towards the return of the Dele Alli of old which saw him light up the Premier League in recent years while being hailed as a generational talent.
And the Special One was more than happy to praise a special performance from the player.
‘The goal I don’t need to speak, because everyone watched it and I believe that all around the world people are going to watch it,’ said Mourinho after the 4-0 win over Wolfsberger on Wednesday.
‘But for me the globality of the performance is what matters. He played very well in every aspect of the game.
Now, after appearing in Spurs’ last five games, Alli (right) looks to have rediscovered his magic
Tottenham’s No 20 scored the stunning overhead kick and set up two more on Wednesday
‘Of course he’s not fresh, of course you can feel that his performance like in the first leg from minute 55 to 60 is going always to go down, which is normal due to the circumstances – injured, not training for a long time.
‘But in this moment when we are going to play every three days, 10 matches in March, to have Dele back at this level, is amazing.’
His redemption arc, along with Gareth Bale’s, is something Spurs fans have been crying out for and with Mourinho’s over-reliance on Son Heung-min and Harry Kane, it’s not hard to see why.
Domestically speaking, Spurs have been in a real slump for quite some time now but Alli’s movement, talent and creativity could just be the key to getting the side scoring and winning again.
Tottenham’s players have been accused of lacking ideas in the final third with the playmaking burden falling heavily on Kane’s shoulders.
Alli could now be light Spurs and Mourinho need to guide them out of this dark spell
Alli’s trademark in-swinging cross to the back-post for Carlos Vinicius’ first goal on Wednesday showed just how easily he can cut open defences while his vision to find Bale on the left gave the Welshman the chance to smash the ball into the roof of the net.
Again, it should be reiterated that Spurs were playing a mid-table team in the Austrian top-flight, but the signs are promising for the England international.
For now, Alli has his swagger back and is playing with a smile on his face.
With Spurs desperate for a different dimension in attack, Mourinho must now pour his faith back into Spurs’ once-forgotten man if they are to climb back up the table, and ultimately, win some silverware.