For the optimistic among our species, it was the kind of moment that could change both a career and a life.
Dele Alli has experienced one of the more startling declines seen in an elite footballer, going from a Champions League final and playing an essential role in Gareth Southgate’s England side to slugging it out in Turkey for Besiktas.
And it hasn’t gone very well so far; Dele was substituted just 28 minutes into a cup game against Third Division Sanliurfaspor this month, with his side two goals behind. They won 4-2 without him.
“No one can answer whether Dele Alli can do it right now,” Ceyhun Kazanc, the club’s sporting director said this month.
“He is working very hard. He is a player who reached 100 million euros three years ago. He had a fall. Dele Alli is working intensively. We had intense talks with him before we signed him.
“Senol [Gunes, the Besiktas manager] is famous for returning many players whose careers have been on the decline. We hope that he will be better in the second half of the season.”
And, if Dele does complete the finest resurrection since the start of the New Testament, a Friday night in Istanbul may assume particularly huge significance.
Besiktas had established a healthy lead over Alanyaspor when the losing side decided to stage the kind of Barcelona tribute act that leaves you checking the Trade Descriptions Act.
Defenders passed the ball around their own penalty area with increasing nervousness, and Besiktas hardly needed to demonstrate the skill of a Victorian pickpocket to win possession back.
As the ball ran loose, Dele burst into the penalty area and just about got to the ball ahead of despairing Alanyaspor lunge. A combination of goalkeeper and defender failed to stop his ‘shot’ trickling over the line.
Life is inherently amusing, often gifting us luck just when hope disappears over the horizon. We suspect Dele is a new subscriber to that particular mantra.
GOL | Beşiktaş 3-0 Alanyaspor
⚽️ 59′ Dele Alli
— Süper Lig – Anlık Goller (@golsuperlig15) January 27, 2023
For Dele, his goal couldn’t have come at a better moment after Besiktas coach Senol Gunes chose to publically criticise the player after his Sanliurfaspor horror.
“I couldn’t affect the players [yet], now I can easily get through to them, but we haven’t got through to Dele Alli yet,” Gunes explained.
“Let’s not discuss Dele Alli as a player, but he is below expectations in terms of efficiency.”
His torrid time continued on Wednesday when the England international wasn’t named in the squad for the Turkish Cup tie against Ankaragucu.
Besiktas lost the game on penalties but Gunes decided to aim his frustrations at the Everton loanee after the game once more.
“Dele Alli has had a good career. But he doesn’t deserve to play at the moment,” he said, bluntly.
While many on these shores think of Turkish football as a Premier League retirement home, Dele cannot afford to kick back and catch some rays; after leaving Tottenham and failing at Everton, the midfielder has a point to prove.
And Gunes’ outburst raised the stakes even more. But, as his gloriously shit goal and potentially life-changing goal on Friday showed, Dele just might have luck on his side.
Whatever happens for the rest of his career, it was a moment that deserves to be immortalised in stone and marble. Get to it, statue builders.
By Michael Lee