Bryan Robson says he admires Dele Alli, but admits that he would want to “smash” the “cheeky” Tottenham midfielder as a player.
Alli has been a revelation for Spurs this season and further boosted his chances of starting for England at the European Championship with a starring role in Friday night’s 3-2 win over Germany.
Robson, who the 19-year-old has been compared to, is a fan of the former MK Dons star but has warned he will be targeted by opponents as his reputation continues to grow.
“If I was playing against Alli I’d want to smash him,” Robson told the Daily Mail.
“He’s got that cheeky edge where he throws the ball away when you want to pick it up or kicks it a few yards away like when he hit the ball at Emre Can after Eric Dier had fouled him.
“It’s part of the game. It antagonises the opposition, gets under their skin. You have to take the game to the white line but don’t step over it.
“He will become a target now. He’ll face provocation, players will do their best to wind him up whether it’s a pinch, kick, spitting even.
“He has to realise the reason he is getting that attention is because the opposition believe he’s a top player, he is a threat.
“The really good players don’t react and he has to be mindful he’ll be no use to his team if he starts reacting.”
Robson has also warned Alli against believing his own hype at such an early stage of his career.
“He’s only 19 so physically he has another four or five years growing,” Robson said. “He will fill out a bit more and get stronger, but a player doesn’t really mature until he’s around 23.
“There are countless players I’ve seen who get to Dele’s stage and think they have made it. They end up chucking it away.
“The ones that make a difference are the ones who realise ‘yes I’m good but I want to be brilliant’, not just this year but every year.”