Paul Parker: Dele Alli is a delight - but there's one thing stopping him from becoming great
With his stunning performance against Real Madrid, Dele Alli showed once again he has the potential to become one of England's best midfielders of modern times, worthy of the company of the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Bryan Robson and Paul Scholes. That's how much ability and potential he has. I firmly believe he is that good.
But if Alli is to fulfil that potential, if he is to become a legendary player for England and define an era, there is one glaring issue he needs to fix: his temperament. Because at the moment it is the one big factor holding him back.
You don't become a great player because of individual performances in big games. It's about the entire career you build. The extent to which you deliver on your potential and provide the best service you can for your team and colleagues. That's what he needs to think about: ignoring the silly instincts which cause him to lash out, or his discipline to lapse, and devoting himself to his job on the pitch.
Against Real Madrid, we saw the very best of his game. It showed a level of confidence, charisma and ability that only the very best players possess. It was that ability to operate not quite as a centre-forward, not quite as a No. 10, but make those devastating runs into the box and provide a cutting edge. Two goals, and he could have had a hat-trick when failing to connect with a close-range header.
He isn't really a midfield player. You couldn't play him in the centre in a 4-4-2. But he is somebody who has a great array of skills: he shoots, he runs, he tackles, he bursts through the defensive line. Some managers might not know what to do with him but Mauricio Pochettino does. He trusts in his talent and we saw the fruits of that last night.
Happily, that changed at Wembley.
His poor form at the start of the season was probably a symptom of teams and opponents becoming more familiar with how he plays the game, getting his measure. When people start knowing what you are going to do, everything gets a little bit harder. Defenders will have studied how he linked up with Harry Kane last season and learned from it.
But his astonishing performance against Real Madrid maybe signals that he has taken another step forward in training and in his development. Pochettino said before the game that Alli was ready to make an impact again and so it proved against the world and European champions. Now he has to keep it up.
Dele Alli celebrates at the end.Eurosport
Alli had a point to prove last night. And that's what he did. But now he owes it to himself and his team-mates to cut out all the stupidity for good and just focus on doing exactly what he did to the team which has won the Champions League for three of the past four seasons.
Tottenham have one of the best XIs in the Premier League and maybe Europe, but once you start looking into the squad the quality dips quite quickly. That is why it's essential that Alli is not being lost to silly red cards. He hasn't had one this season but he always seems liable to get in a tangle. He can, and must, control that side of his game.
Consistency is key. It shouldn't be 'The Harry Kane Show, featuring guest appearances from Dele Alli'. He should be topping the bill too. And sometimes, like against Madrid, it should be all about him. To do that, he has to cut out the silly business.
Dele Alli celebrates scoring his side's first goal with Kieran Trippier of Tottenham Hotspur during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid at Wembley StadiumGetty Images
Alli will be 22 in April. I'm not sure you can keep making excuses for his behaviour on the basis of his age. By the end of the season he will be a seasoned professional and he will be held to high standards. That particular excuse is running out of road.
I think he has got to understand that some of the treatment he has been getting has actually been quite respectful. That might not be the first word which springs to mind when Shelvey stamps on your ankle, or Young squares up to you, but it shows how much teams fear him, and how much of a jump he has made from the lower leagues to the very top of the English game.
At the moment he responds to provocation far too easily. He doesn't have to get involved with all that. His best response would just be to go out and play his football. Just look what happens when he does.