Eric Dier believes the criticism of Dele Alli is unfair but has warned his Tottenham and England team-mate: “You will have to get used to it.”
Despite a consistent if not spectacular season for Spurs, Alli’s form has been criticised after he scored nine Premier League goals compared to 18 the previous campaign. His temperament has been called into question and he has also been accused of diving.
The 22-year-old, who is part of Gareth Southgate’s 23-man England squad with Dier, was booed at away grounds throughout the season.
In a week when media scrutiny of Raheem Sterling’s new assault rifle tattoo has created widespread debate, Dier said criticism is part of the job but stressed that Alli is comfortable with his divisive image.
“That is the world we live in, whether it’s fair or not,” said the 24-year-old. “I don’t think [it’s fair] but that’s the world he is going to live in for a long time, so he will have to get used to it.“He is always going to divide opinion and I think he is comfortable with that. He’s very comfortable with who he is and I think he should be. He is a fantastic young boy and a great player.
“He can be an even better player. He can improve in everything, and I think he knows that, but I think he can be very proud of what he is at the moment and hopefully continue to improve on and off the field, like all of us can.”
England wing-back Ashley Young also urged Alli not to change his uncompromising style or lose the edge in his game.
“A lot of people say that he’s got to take it out of his game,” said Young, who clashed with Alli in Spurs’ 1-0 defeat at Manchester United in October.
“But he’s one of those that plays on the edge, winds people up. That’s just him. He’s a fantastic talent. And, for me, to have him in the squad is unbelievable. He’s shown in previous get-togethers and in the last few days what a talent he can be and what a talent he is.”
Captain Harry Kane said last week that England’s target must be to win the World Cup - and although midfielder Dier, who is one of England’s most experienced players with 25 caps, is more measured in his assessment of the nation’s chances than his club-mate, he urged Southgate’s squad to meet the challenge in Russia head-on.
“Everyone wants to do as well as possible in this tournament,” the England midfielder told Sky Sports.
“One of the big things is we want to be proactive in this tournament and to go head-on into the challenge.
“Obviously, it will be a big challenge and you’ll need to have the right attitude to be successful in it and a bit of luck - which everyone needs.
“Hopefully, we can have those things and face the challenge on the front foot instead of being reactive and sitting back.”