Tottenham Hotspur head coach Jose Mourinho has explained that he handed Dele Alli a first Premier League start since the opening game of the season in September because the player ‘deserved’ it as a result of the hard work he has put in to get back into the team.
Following several recent substitute appearances and impressive form in the Europa League, Dele was chosen for the Spurs XI against Fulham on Thursday night and he played a major role in the decisive own goal in a much-needed 1-0 victory.
It was his first start in the Premier League in six months, having fallen badly out of favour with Mourinho since the end of last season. The midfielder had even looked likely to leave Spurs in January, only for a proposed loan to Paris Saint-Germain to fall through.
90min revealed soon afterwards that Dele was left furious and frustrated by the deal collapsing, with PSG insistent on an option to buy but Spurs chairman Daniel Levy refusing to agree to any conditions that could permanently sever ties with a player who still has lots of potential.
Often involved in the Europa League this season, the 24-year-old came back into the Premier League as a sub in consecutive games last month and was chosen to start against Fulham.
“He deserved [to start]. It wasn’t a gift, it was a consequence of his work since he came back to the team, working 100 per cent and becoming fully fit and ready to play,” Mourinho told Sky Sports.
“He was giving us important things, he did very well in the Europa League, he did very well in every minute he was on the pitch coming from the bench against West Ham and Burnley so he was deserving.
“In this moment, we need a squad with so many matches coming so quickly. We cannot change the structure of the team but we can change two or three players, which we did today. I thought Dele was important to have a start and the feeling of a Premier League start is important for him.”