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13th Jul 2023

Dele Alli breaks down as he reveals he was sexually abused aged six and was recently in rehab

Simon Kelly

‘I’m scared to talk about it, but I think it’s the right thing to do’

Dele Alli and Gary Neville shared an emotional moment during a revealing episode of The Overlap podcast.

Dele and his team had reached out to Neville a few days previously to say the midfielder felt it was the right time to sit down and talk about his struggles on and off the pitch over the last couple of years.

In the almost hour-long chat, the former Spurs star revealed that he had recently come out of a stint in rehab to work on mental health and addiction issues.

“I’m scared to talk about it, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

After leaving Spurs in 2022, the midfielder joined a struggling Everton side and couldn’t find the form which launched him into stardom earlier in his career. After not being able to hold down a starting position, he was loaned to Turkish club Besiktas, where he struggled even more.

When he came back from Turkey, Dele revealed that he was “in a bad place mentally” and “caught in a bad cycle, relying on things that were doing me harm.”

The 27-year-old told Neville that after a bad period in his career he became addicted to sleeping pills, a problem which he says is much more prevalent in football than people realise.

Dele said he would take pills during the day on his day off, sometimes as early as 11am.

“Where was the point where you started to feel it wasn’t right?”, Neville asked the midfielder.

“One morning I woke up. I had to go to training, this is when he’d [Mourinho] stopped playing me,” Dele explained. “I remember just looking in the mirror. I mean it sounds dramatic, but I was literally just staring in the mirror and I was asking if I could retire now at 24? You know, doing the thing I love.

“For me that was heartbreaking.”

Dele also opened up about his traumatic childhood, stating that this is where a lot of his problems stemmed from. In a very emotional moment of the interview, Dele struggled to talk about the issues but bravely told Neville what had happened to him.

“So, at six, I was molested by my mum’s friend, who was at the house a lot. My mum was an alcoholic, and that happened at six. I was sent to Africa to learn discipline, and then I was sent back,” he said as Neville became visibly upset at the revelations.

“At seven, I started smoking, eight I started dealing drugs. An older person told me that they wouldn’t stop a kid on a bike, so I rode around with my football, and then underneath I’d have the drugs, that was eight. Eleven, I was hung off a bridge by a guy from the next estate, a man.”

Dele was eventually adopted at the age of 12 and things improved considerably for the footballer. However, rehab has helped him come to terms with his traumatic early childhood which caused a lot of the problems he has faced recently.

Dele also said his Spurs teammates Eric Dier, Harry Kane, Heung-min Son, Ben Davies and manager Mauricio Pochettino were huge helps to him during his struggles.

The Everton player says he is now fully focused on becoming better than he ever was on the pitch, and says he’s in a very healthy place at the moment.

“I want to be a better player, a better person. I think, like I look back at that and think ‘yeah, I’ve done good’, but I’m not satisfied with that. I mean, you can’t drive your car looking in the rear-view mirror, you can’t hold onto things that happened in the past.

“I’m just looking forward and the journey from here is just exciting for me. And I think you can tell that by how passionate I am about it, and I really mean it when I say it, I’m excited and we’ll have to see.”

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