Dele Alli has enjoyed a breakout season at White Hart Lane and seen his performances rewarded with the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
The £5m arrival from MK Dons was earmarked as one for the future when snapped up by Tottenham but after featuring in 51 games for club and country this term, netting an impressive 11 goals, the England man has ‘arrived’ ahead of schedule.
The 20-year-old midfielder is almost certain to fly to France as part of the Three Lions set-up for the Euro 2016 finals and could yet head to the continent with a Premier League winners’ medal around his neck.
The YPOTY award isn’t always an accurate prediction that a player will go on to achieve greatness but it is more often than it isn’t.
Here are four former winners with career paths Alli would do well to emulate – and one he’d do well to avoid.
Ryan Giggs – Manchester United – 1991-92 & 1992-93
A man who needs no introduction (but is going to get one here anyway) Ryan Giggs has won everything it is possible to win in club football. The one club United legend was pretty much a star from the second he took to the Old Trafford pitch but even those who handed him this honour, twice, couldn’t have predicted a trophy haul including 13 Premier league titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and two Champions Leagues among its highlights.
If Alli achieves half of what Giggs managed in his career he’ll go down as a legend of the game.
Robbie Fowler – Liverpool – 1994-95 & 1995-96
That Robbie Fowler is still revered as one – if not the – best strikers to ever grace Anfield, given he has the likes of Michael Owen, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez for company, is a testament to the striker’s ability. A return of 120 goals from 236 league appearances earned him the ultimate Kop nickname – God – and as part of the treble-winning Reds team of 2001 his early potential can be seen as realised.
Stay at Spurs for the next 10 years and Alli could well enjoy a London status similar to that afforded to Fowler on Merseyside.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United – 2006-07
When Ronaldo burst on to the scene at Old Trafford his fast footwork and fancy tricks saw him ridiculed in certain circles – Baddiel and Skinner anyone? – but the Portuguese master has been having the last laugh ever since.
Once the teething problems – lack of end product, propensity for diving – were sorted CR7 quickly set about dominating the Premier League. He’s won it all and broken every record in the book and if there is a modern-day icon who has set the bar for players like Alli – this is him.
Gareth Bale – Tottenham – 2012-13
Now a team-mate of Ronaldo at Real Madrid Bale was perhaps the closest the Premier League has come to CR7 since, with his marauding displays for Spurs earning him this honour in 2013.
That Bale went from a questionable left-back with pace to a world-beating winger in the space of a season – under Harry Redknapp – only makes his story even more unbelievable.
Now the most expensive player in the history of the game and a Champions League winner – just three years after picking up this gong – Alli will be hoping his similar start will mean an equally bright future.
Lee Sharpe – Manchester United – 1990-91
And finally…one to ignore. With his dazzling footwork, keen eye for goal and a spectacular Elvis-inspired celebration everything was in place for Lee Sharpe to become a superstar.
And for a while he was. Three Premier League titles, two FA Cups, a League Cup and a Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup mean he won more than most do in their entire careers by the age of 25.
However, his penchant for off-field hijinks saw him fall foul of Sir Alex Ferguson and despite several attempts he was unable to recreate the magic at stints with Leeds, Sampdoria, Bradford and Portsmouth.
Spells at Exeter, Grindavik in Iceland and lowly Garforth Town brought the curtain down on a career that promised so much more and will not appeal to latest recipient of this PFA award.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.