Dele Alli: The Unspoken Trials and Triumphs of Everton’s Midfield Dynamo
Navigating a Traumatic Past
In an intimate conversation with former England stalwart Gary Neville, Everton’s midfield maestro Dele Alli divulged his turbulent past. At the tender age of six, Dele was subjected to sexual abuse, a trauma that marked the beginning of a challenging childhood. Forced into smoking at seven and drug peddling at eight, he had to weather storms far too severe for his years.
Dele, now 27, recently emerged from a six-week stint in rehab due to a debilitating addiction to sleeping pills and pressing mental health concerns. He revealed these haunting experiences in Neville’s renowned podcast, The Overlap.
The prodigious midfielder, lauded as one of football’s brightest prospects, won laurels for England in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and helped Tottenham Hotspur march into the 2019 Champions League final. Yet, he faced a downturn in form, leading to a departure from Spurs for Everton in early 2022. A loan spell with Turkish side Besiktas followed, after which he returned to Everton, nursing an injury.
The Road to Recovery
“I discovered my need for surgery upon my return from Turkey, and I was battling a mental health crisis,” Dele shared on The Overlap. His choice to turn towards a modern rehabilitation facility was a personal one, driven by a deep desire for self-healing and freedom from destructive patterns. He spoke candidly of daily battles hidden behind smiles and exuberance on the training ground, leading him to the decision to seek help.
In response to Dele’s revelations, Everton stated their full support and admiration for his bravery. The club confirmed that Dele wouldn’t conduct further interviews regarding his rehab, urging respect for his privacy while he recovers both physically and mentally.
Coming to Terms with Childhood Scars
Emerging from rehab three weeks ago in the United States, Dele spoke of how he had gained invaluable insights about his early life struggles. He struggled with tears, revealing his experiences of being “molested” by a non-relative. With an alcoholic mother and a distant father, he had a troubled start, involving everything from delinquency to dealing drugs and facing threats from a local man.
The turning point came when he was adopted at twelve by a family he praises profoundly, “If God created people, it was them.” He severed ties with his biological parents following accusations from them in 2018. Rehab, however, granted him the understanding and empathy to absolve his mother from blame. However, the pain associated with those accusations means he has no intention of rebuilding that relationship.
Dele’s career took off in 2012 when he debuted for MK Dons at 16. He rose through the ranks, impressing in a victory against Manchester United and subsequently joining Tottenham in 2015. However, during this time, he battled hidden demons, gradually developing a dependency on sleeping pills. He confessed:
“Things I was doing to numb the feelings I had…I didn’t realise I was doing it for that purpose.”
This troubling pattern went on undetected for a while, spiralling into a severe addiction, which he now recognises as a way to cope with the lingering trauma from his past.
A Beacon for Others
Unveiling his journey sooner than planned due to tabloids sniffing around his rehab stay, Dele opened up about the challenges he faced under various managers, including Pochettino and Mourinho. Recalling a poignant moment at 24 when he contemplated retiring, Dele voiced his desire to use his experiences to support others in similar situations. His message to them:
“You can talk to people. It doesn’t make you weak to get help, to be vulnerable – there’s a lot of strength in that.”
In terms of his football career, Dele expects to be on the sidelines for “another few weeks,” aiming to showcase his ability to perform in the Premier League once again. “I want to be a better player, a better person,” he said, underlining his commitment to looking forward rather than dwelling on the past.
Applauded for His Courage
Prominent figures in football, including England captain Harry Kane and former England striker Gary Lineker, lauded Dele for his courage. The Professional Footballers’ Association lauded his honesty, affirming that his openness will undoubtedly inspire and make a difference to others, both within and outside football. His former club MK Dons also expressed their unwavering support, adding to the voices championing Dele’s bravery and commitment to mental health.
As the football world rallies around Dele, his courage stands as a beacon for many silently struggling, showing the world that it’s never too late to seek help and turn life around.