MK Dons manager Karl Robinson has revealed Dele Alli was closely monitored by Tottenham Hotspur for three and a half years before they finally secured his services last February in a £5m ($7.5m) deal. Other Premier League outfits were understood to be following the new England international's development, but Robinson says Spurs won the race for Alli by "making him believe they were the right club for him".
Mauricio Pochettino let the 19-year-old stay at MK Dons until the end of last season, helping them secure promotion to the Championship with 16 goals and nine assists in 39 appearances. Alli then moved to White Hart Line as a back-up for Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb in the middle of the field following the departures of Etienne Capoue, Benjamin Stambouli and Paulinho.
Alli took advantage of injuries to his teammates to become one of the sensations of the season so far, forming an impressive partnership with Eric Dier and earning an England call-up.
Robinson is not surprised as this state of affairs, as he was always confident in his talent and just needed trust, which Pochettino is giving him, to prove himself in the top flight.
"When he was 17, I said he would play for England. He has a very poorly developed sense of fear. Yes he is talented and fearless but also very humble and grounded," the MK Dons manager said to Standard Sport.
"When he chose to move to Spurs, he was totally dedicated to that decision. Spurs made him believe they were the right club for him. They had been following him for three-and-a-half years. I spoke to David Pleat [former Spurs boss who still scouts informally for the club] many times about him. I have had a few conversations with Dele since the move but he is not my player any more."
The MK Dons manager believes Alli still room for improvement, adding that despite his versatility his best form would come as the number eight.
"He needs the time and space to grow, mature and become a top player. I believe his best position will be as an 'eight' [the more attacking of the two central midfielders in the 4-2-3-1 system] but he is a throwback to the type of midfielder who can attack and defend," he said.
"His goal for England against France was typical of him. He won a tackle and then, later in the move, scored from outside the penalty area. In fact, he scored nearly an identical goal on his full debut for MK Dons [in an FA Cup tie against Cambridge City in November 2012]."