Mauricio Pochettino has described Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli as a “wild horse” that can never be tamed.
Alli has become one of Pochettino’s most trusted performers at Spurs and has scored four goals for club and country already this season.
The 20-year-old’s attacking talent comes with a fiery personality, however, that has landed him in trouble in the past.
Alli was handed a three-match ban at the end of last season for punching West Brom’s Claudio Yacob and he was lucky not to escape punishment in the Europa League when he kicked Fiorentina defender Nenad Tomovic.
The midfielder has only collected one yellow card in 14 games this season, however, and Pochettino believes the youngster is learning to channel his aggression.
“It is all a process with the younger lads to be more mature, with more experience, now more focused on playing football,” Pochettino said.
“It is like when you have a wild horse and you need to put it in a box and domesticate it, no?
“He is a big talent but he was a bit wild. Now he is more domesticated. But you can never lose that wild side. That side might make him a special player.
“He is a special, a great guy. We have a very good relationship. He is a very emotional person and I think we all love him.”
Alli managed 10 goals and 12 assists in the Premier League last season – a superb return in his debut campaign – but his finishing has let him down on more than one occasion.
He should have put Tottenham in front against Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday but headed over the bar and was also guilty of a glaring miss for England against Malta earlier this month.
No player in this year’s Champions League has had more attempts without scoring than Alli, who is joint top of the charts on 10 with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, but Pochettino contends Alli is not a striker.
“There is nothing to say about Dele. I am more than happy with him, the effort in every game,” Pochettino said.
“He plays a lot, he brings to the team many positive things and if every chance that he has he will score, maybe we are talking about a Marco van Basten or a Gabriel Batistuta, a striker. Not a midfielder offensive, a number 10.
“I think he works hard, he presses, he scores, he creates chances. I think it is unbelievable all the effort he makes in every game.
“It is not easy to be fresh in every action. But I am more than happy with him.”