Frank Lampard has warned Dele Alli risks wasting his career at the highest level unless he rediscovers the focus that made him a World Cup semi-finalist with England four years ago.
Alli joined Besiktas on a season’s loan on Thursday seven months after leaving Tottenham for Everton. He moved from Spurs in an unorthodox deal under which Everton agreed to pay an initial £10m after 20 appearances, but even that modest target has not been reached. The 26-year-old, an England regular at the last World Cup and the Professional Footballers’ Association’s young player of the year in 2016 and 2017, has moved on after featuring only 13 times for Lampard’s team, 12 of those as a substitute.
In echoes of José Mourinho’s warning from 2020 that Alli would regret not demanding more of himself, the Everton manager claimed the playmaker’s downward spiral was linked to his approach to training.
Lampard, who admits taking a calculated risk when signing Alli on deadline day in January, said: “I do have great empathy for the trajectory of his career in a sense because it is clear to see. I don’t have to dress that up in any way.
“Having worked closely with him for a period I have to say he really does need to understand the relation of training and focus to what that means to performance at the highest level. It’s not just the Dele story, I would say that to any player because it’s the only thing I know. I wasn’t a saint, but I know what training can do and focus can do, and that’s something he really has to take on board. If he can, it can be not just a great thing for him but for the teammates around him in the squad. He’s at that point. That is the test for him now.”
Alli will have a year remaining on his Everton contract should Besiktas decline options to sign him for £6m before 1 January or £8m after that until June. Lampard believes Alli’s elite-level career will be in jeopardy without a change of attitude.
“He has to do it. Every player has to do it. This sport is too elite at the top end. If you want to be in that bracket, or be influential at a club like Everton or Tottenham, or anywhere. It is just too elite. Every player has to have a version of what is best for them and what gets the most out of them. Not every player will do the amount of training that a certain player does, but the focus has to be there and if you don’t have it, it is really, really tough.”
Everton have completed the signing of the Brighton forward Neal Maupay for an undisclosed fee, thought to be in the region of £15m. The 26-year-old underwent a medical on Friday, and has signed a three-year deal with an option of a further year.
“Everton is a great club with unbelievable fans and I am so, so happy to be here,” said Maupay. “It was an easy choice for me when I started to talk with the club. I knew straight away I wanted to play for Everton and help the club to succeed. I’m excited and it’s a new challenge for me. I will do everything I can for Everton. That’s what the fans want – they want players that are ready to give their best, and ready to fight.”
Meanwhile, Lampard insists he is under no pressure to sell Anthony Gordon to fund incomings. The manager has set his own “red line” date for Chelsea to complete a deal for the England Under-21s international and rejected claims that an offer worth up to £60m had been made. Unless Everton’s valuation is met in the coming days, and before Thursday’s official deadline, Gordon will stay.
“It is absolutely not happening at this point and that is where we are at,” said Lampard. “I have got respect for Chelsea because I did play for them but my biggest job now is to have an understanding of what I need to do here and the situation we are in is that Anthony is not leaving this club.”
He added: “We have drawn a red line. I won’t say where it is but I am getting very close to it. It is my job to put the best squad together so there absolutely has to come a time where we understand what the squad is going to be. Especially with a player of the level of Anthony, I have to know he is going be here and the good thing is myself and everybody involved upstairs has the same kind of thinking.”