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Mauricio Pochettino has labelled Dele Alli “one of the best in Europe in his position” after the midfielder captained Tottenham to Wednesday’s penalty shootout victory over Watford in the EFL Cup on Wednesday night.

The Spurs manager made the decision to hand the captain’s armband to Alli earlier in the week, and it was an opportunity Alli was keen to make the most of with the game taking place at Stadium MK, the home of his boyhood club MK Dons.

Alli scored a penalty in normal time and converted a spot-kick in the shootout to send Tottenham through to the fourth round. He later spoke of his intention to be a leader on the pitch after getting a feel for the captaincy – read more about those quotes here.

And on Thursday, Pochettino heaped praise on Alli’s maturity in leading the side to victory in Milton Keynes.

“He spoke from the heart [before the match]. I can’t tell you what he said, but he was very good,” Pochettino said (via ESPN).

“He is more mature, more experienced. We were all there in his position once. When you are young you do some crazy things – some more than others.

“He is one of the best in England and one of the best in Europe in his position. He’s still so young but of course this type of experience, like being captain for the first time, will help him to improve in all the aspects of his game.

“He was so excited before the game. He was back in his home town and playing at his old stadium. It was fantastic for him. Of course he behaved very well. I think it was his first time as captain.

“I told him being captain means a lot, it’s not just about wearing the armband.”

The cup tie was Alli’s first club start since before the recent international break. The 22-year-old has been struggling with an injury but is now back to full fitness and should start against Huddersfield Town on Saturday.

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