José Mourinho says he expects Dele Alli to stay at Tottenham and has recalled him to the squad for Thursday’s Europa League qualifier against Shkendija in North Macedonia, challenging him to make the most of the opportunity.
The Spurs manager had omitted Alli from his previous two squads – against Lokomotiv Plovdiv last Thursday and Southampton on Sunday – amid uncertainty over the attacking midfielder’s future. Alli has been offered to Paris Saint-Germain on loan and is of interest to several other clubs.
Mourinho started Alli in the No 10 role in the season-opener against Everton only to substitute him at half-time and, after the Southampton game, he said he would probably play him at Leyton Orient in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday. That tie was called off at the last moment after a huge number of Orient players tested positive for Covid-19. Discussions are continuing at the EFL over whether the Orient game will be rescheduled or Spurs awarded a win. Orient are desperate to find a way to play it whereas Spurs believe the rules say they ought to be granted a walkover.
Mourinho did not say whether Alli would start or be on the bench against Shkendija, the North Macedonian champions, but when asked whether the player would remain at Spurs after the transfer window had closed on 5 October, he replied: “Yes.”
Mourinho went into rather more detail about what he wanted from Alli. “It’s important for every player on the pitch to have an answer and perform,” Mourinho said. “Players have to prove on the pitch with their performances, prove how good they are in that specific moment. If he is on the pitch one minute or 90 minutes, he has to show us.
“There is a tendency now when a player performs or doesn’t perform to give responsibility on coaches – some because they give the player the right love, some because they give him the right stick. I always feel that 99% of the responsibility is the player. I have 1%.”
Mourinho mentioned how Wednesday was the 20th anniversary of his first game as a manager – a 1-0 defeat with Benfica at Boavista – and he knows from experience that there is danger in any knockout tie. He will not take any risks – “I am taking the best players and the best possible team,” he said – and it sounded as though he would start with a similar XI to the one he used at Southampton. The new signing Sergio Reguilón has not yet trained and will not travel.
“The team that was supposed to play against Orient is different to the team that plays tomorrow,” Mourinho said. “The main reason is that we played last Sunday at Southampton and one thing is Sunday-Tuesday and another is Sunday-Thursday. It is a normal situation for a footballer of this level to have three days’ rest and to play again on Thursday. It’s not normal to play Sunday and then play Tuesday so obviously the teams are going to be different.”