Dele Alli opens up on career, health and facing demons

July 14 – In recent seasons, few English football fans have not quite been able to grasp why Dele Alli, one of the game’s most naturally gifted players, appeared to be failing to fulfil his undoubted potential.

The career of the former England international, still only 27, seemed to be going downhill fast.

Now, in a brave and remarkably candid interview about his life off the field, Dele has opened up about being sexually abused as a child and how he recently spent six weeks in rehab in the United States in a bid to deal with mental health problems stemming from a traumatic childhood and after getting addicted to sleeping pills.

Dele was one the English game’s biggest talents, a member of the national side that reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 after a period when he shot to fame as part Mauricio Pochettino’s young Tottenham side that came close to winning the Premier League.

He joined Everton on a two-and-a-half-year deal in February last year in a bid to revive his career after seven years at Tottenham, only to move to Turkish side Besiktas on loan for the 2022-23 season.

To explain how his career has been derailed, Dele chose to be interviewed by former England defender and TV pundit Gary Neville to open up on the issues that have been affecting him.

Among them was the revelation he had been abused as a six-year-old, started doing drugs at eight and, latterly, had a reliance on sleeping pills which he said he was taking “just to escape from reality.”

“It’s been going on for a long time, without me realising it, the things I was doing to numb the feelings I had. I didn’t realise I was doing it for that purpose, whether it be drinking or whatever.”

“There are things 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 try and chase something or hide from something, it can obviously damage you a lot. I got addicted to sleeping tablets and it’s probably a problem that not only I have. I think it’s something that’s going around more than people realise in football.”

Dele said he decided to check into a rehab facility for addiction, mental health and trauma after being told he needed surgery following his return from his loan spell at in April.

“I was caught in a bad cycle. I was relying on things that were doing me harm. I was waking up every day and was winning the fight, going into training, smiling, showing that I was happy but inside I was definitely losing the battle and it was time for me to change it.”

Ali, who was later adopted at the age of 12 by a family he described as amazing added: “Rehab …has this whole stigma around it. It’s something people don’t want to do. It definitely sounds scary. I could never have imagined how much I would get from it and how much it would help me mentally, because I was in a bad place. A lot happened when I was younger that I could never understand.”

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