Dele Alli intends to keep the “aggressive streak” he believes is required to become a great player after claiming his apparent kick out at Nenad Tomovic was “not deliberate”.
The 19-year-old midfielder could have easily been sent off in Tottenham’s 1-1 Europa League round of 32 first leg draw in Fiorentina on Thursday night after seemingly kicking out at an opponent.
Alli was booked for what appeared to be booting Tomovic after he fouled the Fiorentina defender on the touchline.
It is not the first time the England international has courted controversy after Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew accused him of stamping on Yohan Cabaye in a Barclays Premier League game in January.
Spurs head coach Mauricio Pochettino said after the draw in Florence that Alli still has “a lot to learn about elite football” but the former MK Dons man believes he must keep the fiery side to his game.
“My personality is that I like to express myself and that is not something I will look to change,” he said. “Do you need an aggressive streak to thrive? You could say that. A lot of the great players have that mentality.
I want to be the best I can and if that’s what I need to do it, that’s what I do.”
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Tomovic reacted angrily to the incident and his mood was not helped when he conceded a controversial penalty shortly afterwards having been adjudged to have tripped the marauding Ben Davies.
Nacer Chadli stroked home the spot-kick, with usual penalty taker Harry Kane watching on from the substitutes’ bench as one of six changes made by Pochettino from the weekend win over Manchester City.
Tottenham could not hang on and conceded a second-half equaliser from Federico Bernardeschi’s deflected effort and the tie remains wide open ahead of the return leg at White Hart Lane on Thursday.
But it could be Alli’s apparent petulance which is the lasting memory of the game, with the player insisting he ironed things out with Tomovic.
“It was not deliberate,” he added.
“I would never do that. Football always gets a bit heated but we shook hands and that’s fine.
“I told him what happened, he said it was okay and we moved on. I explained it to him and we leave it behind now.
“Coming from League One, a lot of tackles go in and that is where I’ve learned my trade.”
“We need to look at the video and try to teach him,” he said.
“He is a young player and he has a lot to learn about elite football. It his first season in the Premier League at Tottenham.
“He came from League One, he needs to learn a lot, still learn. But I didn’t see (the incident). Some people say yes, say no, so I don’t know.”