WHEN Dele Alli lunged in for an X-rated challenge on Gent’s Brecht Dejaegere back in February, he did not immediately realise the long-term consequences of his red card.
As Dele returns to European football for the first time in eight months against Real Madrid tonight, Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino admits his three-match Uefa ban affected the midfielder’s form and mood.
PA:Press Association Dele Alli’s horror tackle on Gent’s Brecht Dejagaere could have been career ending for the Belgian
But now Dele has served his time on the naughty step, Pochettino says his return to top form is as inevitable as the onset of winter.
The Argentine did not quite say his England star had been sulking but being forced to sit out as his team-mates beat Borussia Dortmund and drew with the European champions in the Bernabeu was certainly a sickening blow.
At Spurs, they believe Dele can — and will — be a genuine big-game player. Yet this season he has not hit the heights of the second half of the last campaign.
Pochettino admitted: “After 1½ successful seasons, I think it was a strange and difficult pre-season for Dele.
AFP or licensors Dele Alli will return to European football for the first time in eight months against Real Madrid Reuters Mauricio Pochettino has been carefully managing Dele Alli’s motivation throughout the season
“Then he was banned and it can affect the motivation about preparing himself to compete.
“Always for the player who is not involved in competition like the Champions League, you feel a little bit down.
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“Maybe, he was affected by that but his internal motivation is higher now to try to compete at his best level.
“I am not worried about him. It’s true that maybe he is disappointed with himself, he’s not at his best — but it’s coming. Like winter is coming.”
Reuters Tottenham engineered a point against Real Madrid earlier in the group stages