Mauricio Pochettino is backing Dele Alli to become a future leader at Tottenham as his team prepare to face Liverpool – the club Alli almost joined.
Alli supported Liverpool as a boy and came so close to moving to Anfield in 2014 that he was driven up to meet then-manager Brendan Rodgers, along with his childhood hero Steven Gerrard.
Gerrard, however, never showed up and Liverpool dithered, allowing Tottenham to jump in and sign the midfielder from MK Dons in January 2015.
Alli will line up against the Reds on Saturday as Spurs look to end any lingering hopes Jurgen Klopp’s side might have of challenging for the title.
Liverpool head into the clash with only one win in their last 10 matches, facing accusations of burnout and a lack of leadership in the squad.
Pochettino encountered similar problems after taking over at Tottenham in 2014 but the Argentinian says the likes of Hugo Lloris, and Alli, have brought some much-needed steel to his side.
“Of course it is important we have Lloris, the captain of France, he is an experienced player and can maybe give better advice than younger players,” Pochettino said.
“But then we have Dele Alli, with his personality and character, maybe he can become a leader in a few years.
“Every player in the squad has leadership qualities, they just need time to develop the qualities.
“It’s important to have good character and always work to win, not just to say ‘I want to win’ – it is to show you want it with your behaviour, attitude, enthusiasm, your own motivation.”
Defeat would see Liverpool fall seven points behind their opponents and, if Chelsea beat Burnley on Sunday, 16 points adrift of the league leaders.
Klopp and Pochettino are both renowned for their high-octane styles of play but the Tottenham manager has also had to adjust his methods to suit the Premier League.
He has substituted key players more frequently this season and rotated his starting line-up heavily for the cup competitions. He insists Klopp will also find the right balance.
“I cannot speak for another coach but all the managers, and Klopp with his experience, he is clever like other managers to provide good balance,” Pochettino said.
“If you win you are a genius, if you don’t win you are criticised. You need to be natural, spontaneous and believe in the way you play, use your methods.
“It’s an easy answer: only work in the way you believe you can achieve big things.”
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