DELE ALLI announced himself on the international scene in his first start for England when he cracked a glorious 25-yard shot into the top corner against France.
That was 19 months ago, on an emotional night when England joined France in mourning the victims of the Bataclan terrorist atrocity in Paris.
Alli lit up that night as far as England were concerned with a feisty performance and that stunning goal on his fourth cap.
Last night at the Stade de France, some 15 caps later, the Tottenham midfielder was taking the field as a now vital cog in Gareth Southgate’s gradual rebuilding of England.
No longer the rookie, the 21-year-old is one of the great hopes – the nugget around whom Southgate hopes to forge a team that can go into the 2018 World Cup with hope.
Whether Alli can be England’s Zinedine Zidane, as Gerard Houllier – the former France technical director – suggested this week, is a another matter.
Zidane could dominate a game and change it in an instant. Alli is still some way off that level but is getting there. Houllier, who helped set up the Clarefontaine academy that has produced so many great French talents, believes that the FA’s investment in St George’s Park will produce dividends in five or 10 years.
But he said a spark will be needed – and he felt that spark could be Alli. The Spurs starlet had been poor in the 2-2 World Cup qualifier against Scotland on Saturday, when it looked like a game too far in a long season for both him and Marcus Rashford.