James Milner believes Dele Alli can be “10 times better” than he is now and has challenged his England colleagues to help keep the pressure off the Tottenham midfielder.
Alli has impressed in his early international career, scoring in November’s win over France before putting in a man-of-the-match display in last weekend’s victory against Germany in Berlin.
The 19-year-old was playing third-tier football with MK Dons 12 months ago but has enjoyed a meteoric rise which has seen him become an important part of Tottenham’s Premier League title bid and also a shining light in a young and expressive England side.
He was a late substitute in Tuesday’s 2-1 Wembley defeat to Holland – but he has already staked his claim to start the Euro 2016 opener against Russia in June.
Alli already has six senior caps and will be one player who the nation look toward in France to give England a chance of a successful tournament.
But Milner, whose Liverpool side welcome Alli’s second-placed Spurs to Anfield on Saturday evening, believes the teenager can become even better.
“Brilliant,” was Milner’s brief assessment of how Alli has performed over the recent international break.
“The step-up he has made this season and his form week-in, week-out and then stepping up in to England and taking those performances in.
“We want to be careful now and make sure we don’t put too much on him. We know how good he can be but we have seen it time and time again. ‘This player is going to be the next world-beater for us’ and there is a lot of pressure there.
“We want to take it off him and let him go out there and not worry about it, worry about playing football and keep improving because he is still young.
“As good as he is at this moment he can be 10 times better and he will. He has a great attitude and will keep working hard and keep improving but we need to take that spotlight off him and let him develop and improve. We have seen how good he is and he will only get better I’m sure.
“The manager knows when to play him and is not overusing him. I think it is down to him as well, we know he has got a great head on his shoulders and he is a calm guy.”
Someone on the opposite side of the coin to Alli is Everton defender John Stones – who has fallen out of Roberto Martinez’s side at Goodison Park after being the subject of a massive transfer bid from Chelsea in the summer.
The 21-year-old picked up his eighth cap on Tuesday but his slip when trying to play out from the back indirectly led to the penalty which saw Holland level Jamie Vardy’s opener.
Following such a high-profile transfer tussle, every mistake made by Stones is scrutinised – but Milner believes that is because he is such a promising talent.
“If I was him I’d be taking it as a compliment in a way,” he added.
“He has played so well that he has put himself on that pedestal and people are interested in him and obviously he had the transfer thing earlier in the season.
“When you are playing well you are up there to be shot down, like we talked about Dele, and people being built up.
“You want to see players like that, everyone wants to see us playing out from the back, he is brilliant on the ball, again very young and will only get better and keep learning and another lad with a great attitude as well.”