Dele Alli opens up on being molested as a kid, drug dealing and addiction in emotional interview

Dele Alli opens up on being molested as a kid, drug dealing and addiction in emotional interview

The ending to the Dele Alli story has not yet been written. Only the man himself can do that and the 27-year-old appears determined to make sure it is a successful one as he wants to “prove I’m right because I know how good I can be”.

From mercurial teenage talent, Alli’s football career has stuttered in recent years. He hit the heights with Tottenham, taking the Premier League by storm after completing a £5million move from MK Dons at the age of 19.

He was the PFA Young Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons in 2015/16 and 2016/17, helping Tottenham challenge for the Premier League title on both occasions. He was a phenomenon, with 19 goal involvements in 15/16 and 27 in 16/17. He even managed 20 goal involvements the next year, before things slowed in 2018/19.

After Mauricio Pochettino was sacked, Alli suffered under Jose Mourinho and then Nuno Espirito Santo and Antonio Conte, before being sold to Everton in the January transfer window in 2022.

Things did not get any better for the playmaker, with a loan move to Besiktas last season beset by reports that he had been banished from the squad and went missing from training.

Where did it all go wrong for the star? Well, he has opened up on his life in an emotional and heartbreaking interview with Gary Neville on The Overlap. Alli delved into his traumatic childhood, revealing things he has never spoken about to anyone before, and about an addiction to sleeping tablets, which has hampered his career.

Former Manchester United and now Sky Sports pundit Neville asked firstly ‘Are you OK’ with his first question on The Overlap podcast. Alli responded: “I think so, it’s a question I’ve definitely been asked a lot, but this is the first time in a long time I can say yeah and mean it. I’ve got that passion back for football.”

The video, which was released on YouTube at 8am on Thursday, has already had more than 29,000 views. It is entitled ‘Now is the Time to Talk’ and Neville, nor Alli to be fair to him, hold back in delving into the star’s life before football and what has happened in his career.

“Now is probably the right time to tell people what’s been going on, it’s tough to talk about because it’s quite recent and it’s something I’ve hidden for a long time and I’m scared to talk about it, but I think it’s the right thing to do,” Alli said.

“When I came back from Turkey I came in and found out I needed an operation and 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, mental health and trauma and I felt like 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, relying on things that were doing me harm.

“I was waking up every day and was winning the fight, going into training, smiling, showing I was happy but inside I was definitely losing the battle and it was time for me to change it. I went there for six weeks, Everton were amazing about it.”

Alli revealed he has had an addiction to sleeping tablets during his career, admitting he was doing “stupid things”. The 27-year-old admitted he does not want people to feel sorry for him, but hopes opening up on his struggles will help other people come forward and talk about their issues.

“It’s been going on for a long time I think without me realising it, the things I was doing to numb the feelings I had, whether it be drinking or whatever. I got addicted to sleeping tablets and it’s probably a problem not only I have, it’s probably going around more than people realise in football. Maybe me coming out and speaking about it can help. Don’t get me wrong, they work, with our schedule, sometimes to take a sleeping tablet is fine, but when you’re as broken as I am it can have the reverse effect because it does work for the problems you’re dealing with. It works until it doesn’t and I definitely abused them too much. I was never really dealing with the root of the problem, which was when I was growing up, the traumas that I had.

“I didn’t understand how bad it was. I tried to deal with it all by myself, there were a number of times my adopted family, and it makes me sad, they would take me to rooms crying, asking me to speak to them and tell them what I’m thinking, how I’m feeling and I couldn’t do it. I wanted to deal with it by myself. I lost myself for a few years. I was turning everyone away, not accepting any help from anyone, when I have the family that saved my life, crying, asking me to tell them what was wrong and I wouldn’t.

“They heard a few times about them, but I’d swear I had never taken them or wasn’t taking them, which was part of the problem, I didn’t want help, I would tell myself I wasn’t an addict and wasn’t addicted to them, but I was. And I needed help.

“Teams give them to you for a reason – to sleep, I wasn’t doing that, I would take them throughout the day, sometimes from 11am if I’ve got the day off, I’d never take them if I was playing, but I would start early, just to escape from reality.”

Alli’s childhood upbringing is something he has not spoken about before. He changed the name on the back of his shirt from Alli to Dele in 2016 because he felt he had “no connection with the Alli surname”. His mother gave him up for adoption as she battled alcoholism, and in the heartbreaking interview with Neville, Alli explained more.

“It’s something I haven’t spoken about that much. There were a few incidents that can give you a brief understanding. At six I was molested by my mum’s friend that was at the house a lot. My mum was an alcoholic.

“That happened at six. Then I was sent to Africa to learn discipline, then sent back. Seven I started smoking, eight I started dealing drugs, selling drugs yeah, an older person told me they wouldn’t stop a kid on a bike so I’d ride around with my football and have the drugs. Eleven I was hung off a bridge, by a man from the next estate. Twelve I was adopted and I was adopted by an amazing family, I couldn’t have asked to be adopted by better people. If God created people it was them.

“When I started living with them it was hard for me to really open up to them. I tried to be the best kid I could be for them. I don’t want people to feel like they should feel sorry for me.”

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