While Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping Dele Alli and Eric Dier lead Tottenham past Fiorentina in the Europa League on Thursday, he expects the duo to play key roles for England in the years to come.
Spurs welcome La Viola to White Hart Line for the second leg of their Round of 32 tie, with the young pair expected to start in midfield as the Premier League side will look to book their place in the next round.
Given their impressive performances so far this season they very well could play starring roles in the contest, though Pochettino is tipping them to achieve success on the international scene as well.
You’ve won five Premier League matches in a row, secured a draw in Florence and lost in the FA Cup. How is your team doing heading into Thursday’s match?
“We’re doing well, even if we could have done without the injuries of Harry Kane, Moussa Dembele and Tom Carroll. Our squad depth means we can deal with the issue.”
Nacer Chadli’s goal from the first leg gives you the slight advantage.
“Both sides have the same chances of going through. We played better for 65 minutes in the first leg, but they did well in the final 25 minutes.”
What are your thoughts on Federico Bernardeschi?
“He is a real talent. He has a lot of potential but he is already very good.”
Paulo Sousa is an emerging coach like yourself.
“He was a great player, but he was humble enough to start at the bottom between jobs in England, Hungary, Israel, Switzerland and now Italy.”
You are the youngest manager of the top five teams in England, along with the youngest side at 24.6 years of age.
“It is something that speaks to the history of this club and the English culture. We have put a long-term project in place, but the presence of some players over the age of 25 balances things out.”
Is age the reason why your team is the one that runs the most out of the top clubs in the Premier League?
“Being young isn’t enough if you don’t work hard in training. Running and having 90 minutes in your legs is the logical consequence of the work that is put in during the week.”
Dele Alli is the surprise of the season even though he hasn’t turned 20. How did you find him?
“In August 2014 a scout showed me footage from MK Dons-Manchester United. Alli played a great match and we started tracking him, until we finally signed him.”
Speaking of United, is it true you were contacted to replace Louis van Gaal?
“These are just rumours and I never comment on them.”
Moving Eric Dier from defence to midfield is a move that has proved successful.
“On the first day of training I asked him to try it out. He was convinced it would work out and it has. England’s midfield is set thanks to the pairing of Dier-Alli.”
Erik Lamela has scored eight goals and regularly starts. He’s another gamble that has worked out for you.
“Lamela needed more time to settle. His first season in England wasn’t easy due to the comparison to Gareth Bale, his transfer fee and an injured shoulder. Now he has moved past all of that.”
Does being second in the Premier League mean that it is your number one goal?
“When you find yourself in a position like the one we are in you want it all. The fans can dream and we must continue to work day after day. In any case, we also want to go far in the Europa League.”
Leicester City are the biggest surprise in the Premier League of the last 20 years though.
“Towards the end of last season it was clear they would impress. You can see the work of Claudio Ranieri.”