Former Three Lions skipper Terry Butcher has tipped Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli to illuminate Euro 2016 and take the next step towards assuming the status of one of England’s best ever players.
Alli is a strong candidate to start England’s opening Group B clash against Russia in Marseille on Saturday after a memorable Premier League debut season which saw the 20-year-old crowned the Professional Footballers’ Association Young Player of the Year.
Sir Alex Ferguson has spoken of Alli being the most talented English midfielder since Paul Gascoigne, who was a team-mate of Butcher’s during the 1990 World Cup in Italy where Sir Bobby Robson’s side reached the semi-finals.
“Alli is becoming a top all-round international player and he can make a really big impression at the Euros,” Butcher told City A.M.
“He has certainly hit the headlines and sporting pages like Paul did, but he’s a different player to Paul.
“Both, however, have got a streak which define them from the rest. It’s a streak where you just don’t know what they’re going to do. That’s in terms of discipline but more so ability. They’re both phenomenal talents.
“They live on the edge. One minute they could be scoring a hat-trick, the next they could be sent off. If Dele can keep his temper, frustrations and all his emotions under wraps then he could be one of the best England players of all time.”
One midfielder who has failed to impress Butcher, who played at three successive World Cups from 1982 onwards, is Everton’s Ross Barkley, a player who didn’t feature in England’s final warm-up match against Portugal last week.
“At the start of this season I was raving about Ross Barkley but I saw him against Australia and in recent matches for Everton and he looked like a shadow of that player,” added Butcher. “He looked overweight and sluggish and didn’t look right.
“He has got undoubted talent and the ability to make his mark on a tournament, just like Dele Alli, but seems to have been bypassed by Alli and left in his wake.
“I wouldn’t rave about a player if I didn’t think he had everything that was needed but he’s got to show it on a more regular basis. Perhaps being free of Everton and Premier League worries, he can express himself.”
Butcher, who won 77 England caps, believes Roy Hodgson’s squad have the potential to progress to the latter stages of the competition, but only if they top their group, meaning minimal margin for error.
“England have got a really good chance of making it through to the final four but to do that they have got to be winners of the group, if it’s second or even third place in the group it’s going to be a much tougher progression,” said Butcher.
“Getting to the last four would be terrific and I’ve always said that England are building towards 2018 [World Cup in Russia] rather than 2016, given the age of the squad and experience levels, but needless to say everyone wants England to do well in this competition.”
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