LONDON (Reuters) - Jose Mourinho paid a glowing tribute to Dele Alli after the 23-year-old inspired Tottenham Hotspur to a 3-2 Premier League win over West Ham United at London Stadium on Saturday to kickstart the Portuguese’s reign as manager.
Ahead of the game, Mourinho had challenged Alli, who has often seemed out-of-sorts this season, to show his real self and the manager was rewarded with an outrageous piece of skill from his new charge in the lead-up to Spurs’ second goal.
The ball appeared out of play before Alli somehow scooped it down the line to Son Henung-min who set up Lucas Moura with a pinpoint cross.
“(Alli’s) too good to not be one of the best players in the world and not playing with the national team,” said Mourinho, who hugged the midfielder warmly as he left the field.
Alli also played a pivotal part in Son’s opener and looked back to his best after a series of lacklustre performances caused him to lose his place in the England squad.
“I’m happy with him, I spent a few minutes with him in training and outside the pitch. And we were saying that the best Dele Alli has to be back,” said Mourinho.
The manager was determined that nothing would spoil his mood after watching his side’s first away win in 10 months but he knows he must tighten up a defence which leaked two late goals and has only managed one league clean sheet all season.
Mourinho brought back Eric Dier to sit in front of the back four but their familiar failings were evident as West Ham narrowed the scale of the defeat.
“I was really happy before we conceded the two goals, we were playing well, bringing to the game things we had tried in training. And we had the ball to make it 4-0 and kill the game,” said Mourinho.
“We are lucky I have so many years in the Premier League so I told the players at halftime ‘even if we are 3-0 in the 85th minute the game will still be open’.
“But there were also many factors. The emotions of losing the previous manager, people coming back from national teams and fatigue in the last 20 minutes.
“The most important thing was to win, not matter how. The boys are happy and that’s what I really wanted.” he said.
Reporting by Neil Robinson, editing by Ed Osmond