More young players should consider following the footsteps of Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dele Alli in spending their formative years in the lower leagues. That is according to Kingsley Ugwu, an FA-licensed intermediary at Fitness Essence Sport Management, who has urged aspiring stars to consider their long-term prospects before signing for a Premier League club.
Alli, 20, established his reputation with the MK Dons in League 1, becoming an important member of the club before making a big-money switch to Tottenham in 2015. Since then, the attack-minded midfielder has become a cornerstone of Mauricio Pochettino's side and a central figure for the England national team, too.
"Under-23 football is just not competitive enough," Ugwu explained to IBTimes UK, before turning his focus on the Spurs midfielder. "You look at Dele Alli, he almost made 80 appearances in League 1 before he was 19- years-old — you can see how well he adapted to Premier League football, and I am certain a lot of it is due to how he was able to mature playing men's football."
Ugwu explained that, for a variety of reasons, English players are being given fewer and fewer opportunities in the Premier League. "With the influx of foreign players into the league, English talent are being pushed further down the leagues," he reflected. "An English player playing top-flight football is almost rare, and because of the lack of top-flight English players available, the ones available are priced at a premium, thus encouraging clubs to look abroad. It's an unfortunate cycle."
Alli's success at Tottenham has served to underline Ugwu's point and he has urged the parents of precocious talents to consider all of their options before committing their son's future to a specific club. Indeed, Ugwu even encouraged academy players to consider moving abroad, where they might find playing time easier to come by.
"As football is now, you need to look at the club's policy with playing young English players — are academy players given a fair chance to advance to the first team? Is there a clear pathway for a player in your position?" he queried.
"Also with players who are currently at academies, they shouldn't be afraid to leave and go abroad for experience. It doesn't happen enough with English players, but many could get great experience and enjoy a better quality of life abroad."
Fitness Essence is a sports management company representing athletes across the globe.