Dele Alli
Dele Alli has been in fine form this seasonGetty Images

Mauricio Pochettino has dismissed Brendan Rodgers' recent claim that he almost signed Dele Alli for Liverpool. The Tottenham manager compared Rodgers' statement to his former club Espanyol coming within a "centimetre" of signing Lionel Messi.

Pochettino, 43, revealed the La Liga side nearly signed the reigning World Player of the Year when he was just 17, only for the proposed loan move to fizzle out. And he thinks the scenario is similar to Rodgers' recent revelation that he spent talking to Alli about a move to Anfield, before he instead opted to join the London club.

"Do you know how many players in football are close to signing for many clubs? It's only one comment from some manager. Dele Alli now is here," the Tottenham boss said, according to The Mirror. "We were close at Espanyol to signing Lionel Messi – a centimetre. Unbelievable but this was true.

"Messi was 17, playing for U18s and very close to signing for Espanyol. It was close but it never happened."

The Tottenham manager explained that players often attract interest from clubs, only for them to end up plying their trade elsewhere. "In football it's always 'if, if, if' but in football it's about reality. It's not about maybe what could have happened," he said.

Pochettino's Tottenham side currently occupy fourth place in the Premier League following their win against London rivals Crystal Palace on 23 January. The game featured a goal of the season contender from Alli, who is looking to secure his place in the England squad for Euro 2016.