Dele Alli was once one of England’s brightest prospects but after a sharp decline he has headed to Turkey in the hope of reinvigorating his career.
A move from Tottenham to Everton last season was supposed to provide the fresh start he needed but he departs the Toffees having failed to score a goal or provide an assist in 13 appearances for Frank Lampard’s side.
Only 26, there’s plenty of time for Alli to rediscover the early form of his career that made him a Tottenham and Three Lions regular and he will spend the rest of this campaign on loan at Besiktas.
But what went wrong for Alli? And is this move to Turkey his final chance to return to the heights he once enjoyed?
England starter to Everton bench as goals dry up
Just five years ago Alli was one of the most important players in the Tottenham squad, scoring 18 Premier League goals as Spurs finished second to Chelsea.
But, after the high of helping England to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, Alli’s appearances for club and country have gradually dwindled, with several managers having tried but failed to get a tune out of him.
The 2017-18 season was the last time Alli hit double figures, when he reached 10 goals. In the past four seasons combined he has scored just 14 times. Meanwhile, he won the last of his 37 England caps three years ago.
“I look at Dele Alli and you can’t pin it on Mauricio Pochettino, Jose Mourinho, Nuno Gomes or Frank Lampard,” said former Everton midfielder Don Hutchinson on BBC Radio 5 live. “At some point you have to look in the mirror.
“He’s 26 and there’s a chance he could come back but I watch him and he looks as though he has fallen out of love with football. That flicker has just gone.”
‘It’s all down to Alli’
On his arrival in Turkey on Thursday, Alli was greeted like a hero by adoring fans and if that sort of reception fails to reignite that fire then it is hard to see what will.
Playing overseas gives Alli the chance to find his form again largely out of the glare of the British media spotlight, and the absence of that pressure could also help.
But if neither of those are able to get Alli going again, then former Tottenham midfielder Jamie Redknapp believes the stark reality of his situation could have the required impact.
“What other options has he got?” Redknapp said on Talksport. “I can’t imagine too many other Premier League clubs knocking down the door and trying to get him.
“This is another chance for him to get his career going. It’s up to Dele. He can’t keep looking at everyone else.
“It’s not the ideal move but it’s one where hopefully he can reignite his career and get going again.”
‘It seem the fire inside has been extinguished’
BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty:
The dramatic decline of Alli from the golden boy of English football to lost talent comes into even sharper relief as he leaves Everton for a loan spell at Besiktas after only seven months at Goodison Park.
Alli had the world at his feet when he came thought at Tottenham after joining from MK Dons and looked a superstar in waiting when he scored twice and gave a spectacular performance as Real Madrid were beaten 3-1 in the Champions League at Wembley in November 2017.
He figured in England’s team that reached the World Cup semi-final in Russia in 2018 but Alli’s influence and ability has spiralled downward in quite inexplicable fashion ever since.
It seems the fire that gave him a fierce competitive edge to augment his natural gifts has been extinguished, with even the pleading of then Spurs manager Jose Mourinho that Alli would regret wasting a potentially stellar career failing to re-ignite it.
Spurs were happy to offload a player many once thought could eventually be worth £100m to Everton in January in a staggered deal and the Merseysiders were desperate to ship him out to Beskitas before a clause in his move meant a £10m payment kicked in after 20 appearances, having played only 13 times.
Alli’s drift is one of the most mysterious of all football conundrums, having won the PFA Young Player Of The Year twice in succession in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
He has looked like a player who has lost his hunger for the game, a charge he will certainly deny, but the evidence is there that Alli has turned into a shadow of the world-class player he could have become.
Alli still has so much goodwill among those who want to see this special talent fulfilled, but the hopes of that actually coming to fruition are dwindling and Besiktas arguably represents his final chance to revive a career that has lost its way.