Jermain Defoe raves about Tottenham's Dele Alli

Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur (L) celebrates with Kyle Walker and Danny Rose as he scores their fourth goal and his second during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and...

Tottenham Hotspur star Dele Alli is no stranger to criticism.

Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur (L) celebrates with Kyle Walker and Danny Rose as he scores their fourth goal and his second during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and...

Jermain Defoe has told ESPN that he simply doesn't get why Tottenham Hotspur star Dele Alli receives so much criticism.

The 22-year-old is one of the most valuable young players in European football since exploding on to the scene in the 2015-16 campaign, after joining from MK Dons.

With 14 goals and 15 assists, Alli is enjoying an excellent season for Tottenham but has still often found himself the target of criticism from pundits and the media.

The England international, who managed 22 goals in all competitions last season - including 18 in the Premier League, nine more than his tally this time around - is perceived to have endured a dip in form in comparison to his heroics from the 2016-17 campaign.

But former Spurs hero Defoe, now at Bournemouth, just can't get his head around the abuse.

Dele Alli of Tottenham during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and AFC Bournemouth at Wembley Stadium on October 14, 2017 in London, England.

"Dele Alli -- I just can't understand why people give him stick. He's English and when you look at the numbers, the stats, they don't lie. Why would you say something negative about a young boy that's done so well?" he told ESPN.

"I just don't understand it. These people don't know him as a person. I do. He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. He's just normal, a nice guy who loves his football. And that's it. He's gets a lot of stick and I think it's harsh."

Alli well and truly silenced his critics last month with a brace in the 3-1 win at then-Premier League champions Chelsea.

He is undoubtedly a class act, and a huge talent, but you could arguably question his consistency.

Scoring nine less Premier League goals this season is quite a significant downturn, but he is enjoying a career-best season in terms of assists, so you could also argue that his all-round game is improving, despite a reduction in goals.

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