Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli was singled out for criticism by television pundits following Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Premier League leaders Liverpool.
The 23-year-old England international had little impact on the match at Anfield, where Spurs took the lead within a minute through Harry Kane only for the game to be turned on its head in the second half thanks to Jordan Henderson’s equaliser and Mohamed Salah’s penalty.
Speaking on Sky Sports after the match, former Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane, who has criticised Alli before, claimed Alli had lost his appetite to improve and had his head turned by off-field interests.
“He’s lost that hunger, and when you lose that hunger it’s hard to get it back,” the Irishman said. “Today he was non-existent and he has been now for a year or two.
“He is a quality player but unless you’ve got the hunger and desire to go in and train properly and try and improve, and all this off-the-field stuff that I see him getting involved in where he thinks he’s a male model of some sort, do me a favour. He needs to start looking in the mirror and wondering why he’s lost that hunger and where it’s all gone wrong. Take control of your own career.”
Keane’s former United team-mate Gary Neville added: “I thought they were passive and it was epitomised by one player and that’s Dele Alli. (Christian) Eriksen was poor and I expect more from him but Dele Alli, I thought was a young Roy Keane in terms of his mentality when I first started working with him with England.
“(Sunday’s display) is an absolute poor version of Dele Alli. He’s been like that for 12 months and he’s got to sort himself out now because I think a lot of people think a lot of him, and I think a lot of him, but it’s not good enough and he’s got to get his mentality back. He needs to hear these words. I think he’s man enough to take it.”
Former Reds boss Graeme Souness also joined in, and insisted senior players should have helped keep him focused.
“I thought he was going to be a star.” the Scot said of the former MK Dons man. “I think he’s a classic case of someone who has got himself in his armchair. They gave him a four or five-year contract last year and look what it’s done to him.
“You’ll hear me say this time and time again and I don’t get fed up of saying it… unless you’ve got proper senior pros at a football club, you’ve got no chance, because he has been allowed to take his eye off the ball for whatever reason and the senior players should have been pointing it out to him. They should have been on his case every single day.
“He’s a shadow of himself and he’s still a boy, he’s still learning the game. He’s got to refocus and get back to things he was doing. Whatever that boy’s doing now, it ain’t working for him.”