Roy Hodgson thinks Dele Alli has the potential to be the new Bryan Robson after he named a relatively inexperienced England side to face world champions Germany on Saturday evening.
Less than a year after plying his trade for MK Dons in League One, the 19-year-old has become a Premier League star and his rapid rise shows no sign of slowing.
Alli’s displays are helping Tottenham push for a first league title since 1961 and have made him the bookmakers’ favourite to cap his maiden top-flight campaign with the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
Those displays have also gained Hodgson’s trust and will see the teenager start a second England match on Saturday, ahead of which the manager compared the midfielder to ‘Captain Marvel’ Robson.
“He could do anything in that midfield position,” Hodgson said of Alli’s potential. “I think he can be box-to-box, a number 10, if you like to call it that, or a number six.
“He could be any of them because he has genuine all-round ability. He can challenge, he can run, he can fight for the ball, he can see a pass, he can score a goal.
“You mention Bryan Robson – that’s the player I would like to think he could become, but don’t forget we’re talking about a 19-year-old.
“It’s so dangerous, these things, because he’s at the start of his career and we hope it is going to be a very long one, both for Spurs and for England.
“But we believe in him and we think he is good. If I hadn’t have believed in him, I wouldn’t have put in the team tomorrow night because we’re going to go out there and try and win this game.”
Victory may be the goal but those charged with achieving that boast just 161 England caps between them – Germany’s Lukas Podolski alone has 126 to his name.
Jack Butland has been given the nod ahead of Fraser Forster in goal, with Nathaniel Clyne, Chris Smalling and captain Gary Cahill joined by debutant Danny Rose in defence.
Adam Lallana, Danny Welbeck – making his first England appearance in a year – and Harry Kane form the attacking trio in front of a midfield containing Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier and Alli.
It means there will be four Spurs players in the starting line-up in Berlin – with the club bond something Hodgson believes can benefit England, just like Alli’s sometimes tempestuous nature.
“A player’s temperament is often what brings him to the position that he enjoys,” Hodgson said.
“I’ve not seen anything particularly worrisome in his temperament, so that doesn’t worry me.
“As far as the block of Tottenham players, yeah, that can’t be anything but an advantage if they can carry on and play as well for England as they do for Tottenham. That would be advantageous.
“But, at the same time, I don’t choose them necessarily because of the block. For example, if I would have been bothered with that then I’d play Kyle Walker at right-back, instead of Nathaniel Clyne.
“I am playing Rose because I think he’s the best left-back in this moment in time.
“I’d like to think I continue to choose on ability, talent and what they can bring to our team, and just be conscious of what they do for their own teams. That’s what brings them to our attention in the first place.”
England team to face Germany on Saturday:
Jack Butland, Stoke – 3 caps
Nathaniel Clyne, Liverpool – 9 caps, 0 goals
Gary Cahill, Chelsea – 40 caps, 3 goals
Chris Smalling, Manchester United – 21 caps, 0 goals
Danny Rose, Tottenham – 0 caps
Jordan Henderson, Liverpool – 22 caps, 0 goals
Eric Dier, Tottenham – two caps, 0 goals
Dele Alli, Tottenham – four caps, 1 goal
Adam Lallana, Liverpool – 19 caps, 0 goals
Harry Kane, Tottenham – eight caps, 3 goals
Danny Welbeck, Arsenal – 33 caps, 14 goals