Dele Alli may be forced to consider leaving Tottenham Hotspur in the final weeks of the transfer window after being dealt another huge blow by manager Jose Mourinho.
As Tottenham attempt to seal the return of Gareth Bale, who has spoken to Mourinho about the move, Dele was left out of the club’s travelling squad that flew to Bulgaria for Thursday night’s Europa League tie against Lokomotiv Plovdiv.
Dele was one of eight players not to make the journey, but the decision has come as another disappointment just three days after he had been substituted at half-time against Everton.
It is understood that Dele is not carrying an injury and would have been fit enough to play in Bulgaria, but the 24-year-old was not selected in Mourinho’s squad, who boarded their flight on Wednesday afternoon.
While not confirming their identities, Mourinho revealed that eight players would be left behind in England and that striker Harry Kane will start the Plovdiv match.
“I leave eight at home because in this moment our squad is big,” said Mourinho. “So to take 18, I have to leave eight players at home with one of my assistants to work.”
Bale’s expected return from Real Madrid, which Tottenham are putting the finishing touches on, will push Dele even further down the club’s pecking order and may force him to consider a fresh challenge.
The possibility of Dele moving to Real was raised as Tottenham negotiated with the Spaniards over the deals to sign Bale and left-back Sergio Reguilon.
But his potential availability has alerted other clubs in Europe, who may be interested in signing the attacking midfielder either on loan for a season or permanently, if the finances can work.
Inter Milan manager Antonio Conte is a big fan of Dele and wanted to sign him at Chelsea. The Italian club have raided the Premier League on numerous occasions since Conte’s arrival.
Tottenham and Inter have done recent business over Christian Eriksen’s move to Italy in January and a loan move for Dele could suit all parties.
Paris Saint-Germain have previously held an interest in Dele, while Juventus are searching for attacking players. But Manchester United are not thought to currently be interested - despite the fact Sir Alex Ferguson advised Mourinho to sign the former MK Dons youngsters during his time at Old Trafford.
Should no move materialise in this window, then it appears Dele faces a fight to play regularly under Mourinho, who insisted there has been no fall-out between the pair.
Mourinho did not answer whether or not Dele will definitely still be at Spurs at the end of the transfer window, but he did stress that his decision to substitute the player at half-time was not personal.
“When I do these kinds of things, I do it for the team,” said Mourinho. “In some cases, the option was proven right. In some other cases, the option is proven wrong. In this case it didn’t work. The second half was not better than the first half. That’s my job, to make decisions and to try the best for the team when I’m not happy with a performance.”
Asked how Dele was, Mourinho added: “Dele is a very polite guy, very calm. He’s a bit introspective, when you think a lot about things. The way he reacted was Dele. It was quiet, sad, but in the end, after the game, he was just one of many. But again, I repeat, he’s a good boy. Very, very polite. And I never saw from him in here with myself, with the other players, everybody at the club, I never saw a strong reaction. A good boy. A really good boy.”
With talks over Tottenham’s bid to re-sign Bale continuing, the 31-year-old’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, confirmed that Mourinho had made personal contact with the Welshman.
“Gareth has spoken to Jose and explained how Spurs have a special place in his heart," said Barnett.
Mourinho was more coy on Tottenham’s Bale bid, but did reveal that signing him in this window would make it third time lucky, having failed to do so once for Real Madrid and at Manchester United.
Asked about trying to take Bale to United, Mourinho replied: “Even before that, I tried to sign him for Real Madrid which was not possible to do during my time there. But the president followed my instinct and followed my knowledge and the season I left he brought Gareth to the club. There is no secret on that. Even Gareth knows that. But I’m not going to speak about him anymore because he is a Real Madrid player.”
Barnett added: “There's a long way to go on some issues, but without doubt Gareth is closer to leaving Madrid than at any time in the last seven years. The deal is complicated, but there's reason to believe a deal is close and things could move very quickly if discussions continue to go well.”