ANTONIO CONTE is adamant Tottenham were right to sell Dele Alli in January.
The Italian boss believes the fallen England star could still resurrect his flagging career, insisting: It’s in his hands.
But Conte is not worried about the decision biting him on the backside when 25-year-old Dele returns to Spurs with new club Everton tonight.
He claims none of the players he has got rid of in his managerial career have ever gone on to better things.
Dele left for Goodison on transfer deadline day after a drastic drop in form, fitness and focus led to him falling out of the first-team in his last few years at Spurs.
In fact, come the end of his stay he could not even get on the bench.
That said, he remained a huge favourite with the club’s fans, who were sorry to see him go.
But Conte said: “I think that it was a good decision for the player and the club. This decision was the best for the player because he wasn’t playing.
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“In the last few years he wasn’t playing regularly and I think it was good for him to go to another environment and then to have another challenge for himself.
“I think it was a good decision for both the club and Dele.
“What I can tell you is that in the period we were working together I tried to get the best out of him and he was always involved in the training session.
“But in the end it was a good decision for him and he deserves big respect for what he did for this club in the time that he played here.”
Alli was just 18 when Spurs signed him in February 2015 for just £5million from Milton Keynes Dons, where had been since he was 11.
He remained there on loan for the rest of that season, helping them to win automatic promotion to the Championship.
But nobody could have predicted the almighty impact he would make at Tottenham when he joined up with them that summer.
The rookie teen turned up for the first day of pre-season training match-fit and eager to impress.
I think that it was a good decision for the player and the club. This decision was the best for the player because he wasn’t playing.
Antonio Conte on selling Dele Alli
His new team-mates were stunned by how the new boy appeared to take everything in his stride.
Mind you, when you have come from a broken home on a tough council estate in Milton Keynes, you are never going to be fazed by a life-changing move to one of the biggest Premier League clubs.
His attitude and ability forced then-Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino to scrap plans to loan him out and install him in his squad instead.
Under the guidance of Poch, who became as much of a father figure as manager, Alli developed from a street footballer into one of the game’s hottest prospects.
In his first season at Spurs he won the first of two successive PFA Young Player of the Year awards after finishing with 10 top-flight goals as the North Londoners pushed Leicester all the way for the title before eventually finishing third.
It also earned him a call-up to the England squad where he would become a regular feature.
But after helping the Three Lions to the World Cup semi-final and signing a megabucks new long-term contract at Tottenham in 2018 the first cracks started to appear.
Despite helping Spurs reach the 2019 Champions League final, he suffered a dip in form which was compounded by problems with his hamstring.
THE RISE AND FALL
And whispers of his head being turned by a string of lucrative commercial endorsements and London’s bright lights were growing ever louder.
When he needed an arm around him most, Spurs sacked Pochettino and replaced him with Jose Mourinho, whose first move was to call out Alli publicly.
The player’s form and confidence dropped even further and by the time the Special One was sacked last August, Alli had long lost his place in the Tottenham and England teams.
Asked where it all went wrong for him, Conte said: “It is difficult to tell something about this, but for sure he is still young and his career is in his hands.”
But Conte says he is not worried about Alli returning to haunt him tonight.
The Spurs chief said: “I don’t remember one player who when he went away came back with a great spirit of revenge.
“What happens usually is that when players went away they went down, not up.”