By Rex Gowar
LONDON (Reuters) – Any doubts Dele Alli is the kind of player to take Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur to another level were dispelled this weekend.
The 19-year-old unlocked a tight match at Crystal Palace on Saturday with a sublime goal which put Spurs ahead late in their 3-1 win to consolidate their fourth place in the Premier League.
Pochettino, reflecting on Spurs’ good fortune to have landed Alli when he might have moved to Liverpool from MK Dons, cited Lionel Messi almost joining Espanyol in 2004 as an example of near misses in football.
“It was true and how it changed (Messi’s) life to stay at Barcelona, because it was nearly done, a centimetre (from happening), unbelievable,” said former Espanyol centre back and coach Pochettino.
“Maybe Dele Alli (about to go to Liverpool) wasn’t true but this was true. Messi was 17 years old, playing in the (Barcelona) under 18s and was very close to signing for Espanyol,” he told reporters.
When asked about the chances of signing Messi for Spurs, Pochettino said with a grin: “Last week it was (Gareth) Bale, this week Messi.
“This is football, anything can happen, it’s always if, if, if… but football is about reality, it’s not about maybe, what could have happened.”
Pochettino said Alli had the right mix of talent and attitude to make the grade as a world class player having slotted naturally into the England team last October.
“It’s impossible to (succeed when you) have enough quality but not have a good mentality, it’s that combination that makes a player a great player, like Dele Alli.”
(Writing by Rex Gowar, editing by Pritha Sarkar)