Liverpool midfielder James Milner believes Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli can be 10 times better than he currently is, but has warned of over-hyping the England international. Alli has taken like a duck to water during his first season in the Premier League and has forced himself into contention for this summer's European Championships.
The 19-year-old's reputation was further enhanced with a fine display in the win over Germany in Berlin, a performance that could yet see him force his way into Roy Hodgson's first team for the summer finals. Alli scored his first England goal against France last November, less than a year after moving from Milton Keynes Dons – at the time in League One – to White Hart Lane.
Milner will come face-to-face with his international compatriot on Saturday 2 April, when Liverpool host title-chasing Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield. And despite claiming that the player can improve tenfold, Milner does not want to put too much pressure on the youngster.
"We want to be careful now and make sure we don't put too much on him," the Liverpool man, who is regarded by Jurgen Klopp as a "complete footballer", said to The Guardian. "We know how good he can be but we have seen it time and time again – 'This player is going to be the next world-beater for us' – and there is a lot of pressure there.
"We want to take it off him and let him go out there and not worry about it, worry about playing football and keep improving because he is still young. Good as he is at this moment, he can be 10 times better and he will. He has a great attitude and will keep working hard and keep improving but we need to take that spotlight off him and let him develop and improve. We have seen how good he is and he will only get better I'm sure.
"Hopefully you guys will stay off him a bit and try not to big him up as much. The manager [Hodgson] knows when to play him and is not overusing him. I think it is down to him as well. We know he has got a great head on his shoulders and he is a calm guy. To make the step up and the impact he has this year is brilliant."
The quality of Alli's performances work to re-emphasise the mistake many clubs made in not taking a chance on the midfielder. Liverpool came close to secure a deal ahead of Tottenham, during Brendan Rodgers' spell in charge, but the club's hierarchy were unable to come to an agreement over the transfer. Instead, Milner will have Alli, who is now worth in excess of £20m according to former manage Harry Redknapp, as an opponent rather than a teammate when Spurs travel to Merseyside.