Dele Alli
Dele Alli at Tottenham Lindsey Parnaby

England international Dele Alli has been on a downward spiral in recent years, and he has finally opened up to make shocking revelations about what has really been going on in his life. The midfielder spoke up about childhood sexual abuse, addiction and rehab in an intensely raw and heartbreaking interview with Gary Neville.

Alli returned to Everton in April when a serious injury cut short his season-long loan in Turkey. He sat down with Neville for an interview on The Overlap, and the Manchester United legend was not prepared for the emotional conversation and shocking revelations. "It's the most emotional, difficult yet inspirational conversation I've ever had in my life," Neville said in a tweet inviting followers to watch the interview.

He was a victim of sexual abuse

Alli spoke about both his football career and his personal life in the interview. In a shocking revelation, he shared that his struggles in life started when he was just a young child. "When I was six I was molested by mum's friend... because my mum was an alcoholic."

Drugs and violence were his childhood constants

While telling Neville his story, Alli was visibly emotional and had to wipe back tears. His childhood trauma did not end with the sexual abuse. He said that he was sent to Africa to "learn disciple," but all that went down the drain when he was sent back to England. At the age of seven, he was already smoking and he started dealing drugs a year later.

When he was eight, he would ride around in his bicycle and would hide drugs under his football. "An older person told me they wouldn't stop a kid on a bike," he shared.

He also admitted that he had a brush with death at only eleven years old. A man from a neighbouring estate hung him off a bridge, but he did not elaborate much on the incident.

He found salvation with his foster family

After enduring what almost seemed like a lifetime of suffering, Alli was luckily adopted by a good family during his adolescence. "By 12 I was adopted but from then it was like I was adopted by an amazing family. I couldn't have asked for better people to do what they done for me. If God created people it was them – they were amazing and have helped me a lot," he said.

Despite the new life with people who truly took care of him, the footballer admitted that he was always on guard and had a hard time opening up. "When I was living with them it was hard for me to open up to them because I felt like it was easy for them to get rid of me."

Nevertheless, a much better living situation allowed Alli to focus and thrive on the football pitch, which eventually led to a stint with his local club Milton Keynes Dons. He was later signed by Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.

He made 181 appearances for Tottenham from 2015 to 2022, but most of those came in the first half of his stint with the club. By 2019, he missed a number of games due to an injury, and later returned in a more attacking role under Jose Mourinho. He started to fall out of favour and started only seven Premier League games throughout 2020-21.

Things continued to go downhill for Alli under both Nuno Espirito Santo and Antonio Conte, and he was eventually sold to Everton in January 2022. However, he failed to make an impact and was shipped off on a year-long loan to Besiktas in August last year.

Unfortunately, despite being able to at least play and score, his performances in Turkey still fell below expectations. By February, he was no longer playing and was sent back to Everton in April for an assessment of an injury.

Alli checked himself into rehab to take control of his life

Alli admitted that following the disastrous course of his career, he ended up drinking alcohol excessively and abusing sleeping pills. Fortunately, he had enough sense left in him to check himself into rehab. "When I came back from Turkey I found out I needed an operation I was in a bad place mentally and I decided to go to a modern day rehab facility for mental health. They deal with addiction and trauma. I felt it was time for me," he told Neville.

He admitted that in order for the rehab to work, it has to be a personal decision. "You can't be told to go there - you have to know and make the decision yourself or it's not going to work," he shared.

Alli admitted that he was "caught in a bad cycle" but he was lucky that Everton were fully behind him and supported his decision. "For them to be so honest and understanding I couldn't ask for anything more during a time I was making the biggest decision of my life - doing something I was scared to do. I'm happy I've done it."

He also admitted that he was "scared" to talk about his journey, but it was "the right time for me to tell people what's been going on."

The 27-year-old said that he almost retired when he was only 24. He found the possibility heartbreaking and pushed himself to go on. However, he also admitted that he is the victim of his own demons. "It's always been me against myself in everything. I was winning the fight, showing I was happy. But inside, I was losing the battle."

He is now determined to make the most of his time with Everton, and was one of the first senior players to return to pre-season training. He is still recovering from an injury though, so it remains to be seen when he will be able to make his debut for the club.