Pochettino hails Alli as 'best young player'

LONDON • Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is counting on Dele Alli to step up in the absence of the injured Harry Kane.

Kane, who has scored 35 goals in all competitions this season, suffered ligament damage in his right ankle last Sunday against Bournemouth and a return to training has been pencilled in for next month.

Alli, who ended a 15-game goal drought when he scored in the 4-1 win at Bournemouth, has been given a glowing endorsement by Pochettino as he places his faith in the midfielder to take over the goal-scoring burden from Kane.

The Spurs boss believes there is no other player in the world who can match the 21-year-old.

"When you compare him, Dele Alli, with all the players in the world, not only in Europe, in the world, I think he is the best," the Argentinian said.

"In his age, in his form, assists and everything... Tell me one better than him."

While Alli's displays this term have come under scrutiny from fans and the media, Pochettino says his opinion is what matters most. "The most important for him is us, if we criticise him," he said.

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Pochettino is confident his team can cope without Kane despite admitting they would miss "one of the best strikers in the world".

"We are calm and relaxed because we have enough quality to play and win games," he said.

"It is no excuse now that Harry is out for a few weeks that we are not going to have the same mentality and try and win the games."

Alli, however, remains a doubt for today's FA Cup quarter-final at Swansea due to a tight groin. But he has been named in the England squad for next week's friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy.

"Now, we will see for Saturday because in the end, he's going to play for the national team, and they are not machines," Pochettino added.

Critics have said Spurs will have underachieved yet again if they fail to win the FA Cup but, Pochettino, who has yet to deliver silverware, says the work he is doing is building towards a trophy push.

"People that understand football very well know that this project is a project that is very exciting because we are not a club that are going to buy trophies, we are a club that (are) going to deserve trophies," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2018, with the headline 'Pochettino hails Alli as 'best young player''. Print Edition | Subscribe