In a poignant interview with Gary Neville, Dele Alli has candidly shared about his past challenges and emotional struggles.
The Everton midfielder disclosed that he underwent a period of rehabilitation upon his return from a loan spell at Turkish club Besiktas.
Alli initially rose to prominence with Tottenham Hotspur, emerging as one of English football’s most promising talents under the guidance of manager Mauricio Pochettino.
However, following Pochettino’s departure from the club, Alli has encountered difficulties in maintaining the same level of performance he had demonstrated before.
Deemed as not fitting the plans of Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo, and Antonio Conte, Dele Alli was transferred to Everton in January 2022.
However, he struggled to secure a regular place in the Toffees’ starting lineup and subsequently embarked on a loan spell at Besiktas during the previous season.
Unfortunately, his time at Besiktas did not unfold as anticipated, with Alli failing to make a significant impact and even facing criticism from fans, as he was subjected to boos at one point.
Dele Alli being booed off by Besiktas fans…
— george (@StokeyyG2) December 22, 2022
Alli reveals he went to rehab
The decline in Dele Alli’s football career raised questions among many regarding the factors at play behind the scenes.
However, the 27-year-old midfielder addressed these concerns by engaging in a conversation with Manchester United legend Neville for an episode of The Overlap.
During this interview, Alli candidly discussed his personal struggles, shedding light on the challenges he has faced.
Neville shared the interview on his social media channels, describing it as, “the most emotional, difficult yet inspirational conversation I’ve ever had in my life.”
I’m struggling to find the words to put with this post but please watch my most recent interview with Dele. It’s the most emotional, difficult yet inspirational conversation I’ve ever had in my life. Watch the interview on @wearetheoverlap here https://t.co/60d4IZwQmR pic.twitter.com/0cZowJGW77
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) July 13, 2023
“Now is the right time for me to tell people what’s been going on,” Alli said.
“It’s tough to talk about because it’s something I’ve hid for a long time. I’m scared to talk about it.
“When I came back from Turkey I found out I needed an operation I was in a bad place mentally and I decided to go to a modern day rehab facility for mental health. They deal with addiction and trauma.
“I felt it was time for me. You can’t be told to go there – you have to know and make the decision yourself or it’s not going to work. I was caught in a bad cycle and things that were doing me harm.”
Alli opens up about addiction
After Neville asked about the things Alli was doing which were not helping him, the player revealed that he would drink and do other things to numb the internal feelings he had at the time.
“They’re things that a lot of people do, but if you abuse it and use it in the wrong way and you’re not actually doing it for the pleasure you’re doing it to chase something or hide from something, it can obviously damage you alot.”
He then went on to discuss his addiction to sleeping tablets and described how it was a widespread issue in football.
“Hopefully me coming out and speaking about it can help people because, don’t get me wrong, they work.
“With our schedule you have a game, you have to be up early in the morning to train, you’ve got all the adrenaline and stuff so sometimes to take a sleeping and be ready for the next day is fine.
“But when you’re as broken as I am, it can obviously have the reverse effect because it does work for the problems you want to deal with and that is the problem, it works until it doesn’t.”
Despite admitting that he would sometimes not take them for extensive periods of time, Alli admits that he would not really ever deal with the issue.
But he said that the root of the problem was the trauma that he had while growing up, saying that he tried to deal with it on his own without opening up to anyone.
He would hide the addiction from his family and everyone else around him.
“They could see it in me, I wasn’t who I was, I lost myself for a few years and I was just turning everyone away.
“I had the family who saved my life crying and asking me to tell them what’s wrong and I just didn’t want to do it.”
Alli reveals shocking details about his childhood
Later in the chat, Neville asks Alli about the trauma from his childhood that was, as he terms it, “the root of the problem.”
Neville pointed out that there were signs from the outside, the main one being that Alli had changed the name on the back of his shirt.
The midfielder had previouslystatedthat he had made the change because he felt no connection with his surname.
And Alli, bravely, revealed shocking details about his childhood.
“So, at six, I was molested by my mum’s friend, who was at the house a lot. My mum was an alcoholic, and that happened at six. I was sent to Africa to learn discipline, and then I was sent back.
“At seven, I started smoking, eight I started dealing drugs. An older person told me that they wouldn’t stop a kid on a bike, so I rode around with my football, and then underneath I’d have the drugs, that was eight.
“Eleven, I was hung off a bridge by a guy from the next estate, a man.
“Twelve, I was adopted – and from then, it was like – I was adopted by an amazing family like I said, I couldn’t have asked for better people to do what they’d done for me. If God created people, it was them.”
Alli went on to say that rehab had made him more understanding of his mum’s situation.
“I had no rules, I grew up without any rules. Like I said, my mum she drank a lot and I don’t blame her at all for what happened.
“Me going into rehab now has helped me understand her – it was all she knew. Like, even when she let me go and I got adopted, she knew and I knew that it was what was needed to even have a chance of living the life I wanted to live and be successful. And because it was only going one way if I stayed there.”
Alli nearly retired at 24 but now wants to kick on
During his struggles, Alli admitted to Neville that it started to impact his focus on football.
He said that he had even contemplated retiring in his mid-twenties.
“One morning I woke up and I had to go training,” he said.
“I remember staring in the mirror and I was asking if I could retire now. At 24. Doing the thing I love.
“For me that was heartbreaking.”
Now though, as he continues to work on his return to football, Alli has said that he is focused on getting back to his best.
“I know what I can do on the pitch,” he said. “I think I’ve showed people what I can do on the pitch and now I’ve got the feeling back like before I went to Tottenham when I had a lot to prove and I felt so much love and passion about football.
“I have that back which for me is something that I’ve missed for probably longer than I wanted to.
“But with the other side of it I want to inspire people not only on the pitch but off the pitch. In a way that I probably isn’t spoken about enough, from experience.”
The full interview is incredibly open and brave from Alli. You can watch it in full for yourselves below.