Everton midfielder Dele Alli has revealed that he was sexually abused as a child and dealt drugs before he was adopted by an "amazing" family who helped him to turn his life around.
Alli, a former England international, also said in an interview with Gary Neville on The Overlap that he recently spent six weeks in rehab as a result of an addiction to sleeping pills.
Alli joined Everton on a two-and-a-half-year deal in February last year in a bid to revive his career after seven years at Tottenham Hotspur. He moved to Turkish side Beşiktaş on loan for the 2022-23 season and came out of rehab last month.
"It's been going on for a long time without me realizing it, I was doing (sleeping pills) to numb the feelings I had — I didn't realize I was doing it for that purpose," the 27-year-old said. "I've definitely abused them too much. It got really bad at some points and I didn't understand how bad it was but I was never dealing with the root of the problem — when I was growing up the traumas I had, the feelings I had and I tried to deal with it all by myself. I lost myself for a few years."
Alli, who was part of the England team that reached the 2018 World Cup semifinal in Russia, was born in Milton Keynes in central England to a Nigerian father and an English mother. His father left shortly after his birth. He spent two years in Nigeria with his father as a child before returning to England. At the age of 13, he was taken in by Alan and Sally Hickford.
In the interview, he spoke emotionally about his troubled childhood. He said he was sexually abused by a friend of his mother when he was six-years-old and was dealing drugs by the age of eight.
"At six, I was molested," he said. "I was sent to Africa to learn discipline. Then I was sent back. Seven, I started smoking. Eight I started dealing drugs. 11, I was hung off a bridge by a guy from the next estate. At 12, I was adopted. And from then, I was adopted by an amazing family, I couldn't have asked for better people to do what they've done for me."
Everton said they had offered Alli their full support.
"The club has been supporting Dele in both his return to fitness and overcoming the personal challenges highlighted in his interview," the club said in a statement. "Everyone at Everton respects and applauds Dele's bravery to speak about the difficulties he has faced, as well as seek the help required."
Alli, who twice won the PFA Young Player of the Year award while at Tottenham, is injured at present but could feature next season for Sean Dyche's Everton.
"I'm feeling good in that sense, probably another few weeks (away from returning from injury) and then get back playing and enjoying football which is what I want to do," he said. "So, I'm ready for a big season and I'm more prepared to deal with any challenge that comes with it."
Dele Alli full interview on The Overlap
(Reporting by Pearl Josephine Nazare in Bengaluru; Editing by Angus MacSwan)