Alfie Devine was among the substitutes as Tottenham Hotspur embarrassingly crashed out of the FA Cup on Tuesday evening.
A strong Spurs starting XI were beaten in extra time by Championship outfit Middlesbrough, meaning their long wait for silverware goes on.
Antonio Conte’s side were completely devoid of ideas at the Riverside Stadium as the second-tier side registered more possession (51%) and shots (16) than the north Londoners.
And for all of their defensive issues this season, the Italian has still suffered from a lack of creativity in the final third, so perhaps it’s a surprise that he did not turn to the 17-year-old gem in this competition.
Devine recently took his tally for the U23s this season to nine goals and three assists from 15 appearances in the Premier League 2 and the FA Youth Cup, via Transfermarkt.
His form for the youth squads at Hotspur Way has seen him earn international recognition at U19 level for England, whilst he earned his professional debut in this tournament under Jose Mourinho last season, featuring for 45 minutes in the 5-0 whitewash of Marine.
According to The Athletic, the Portuguese believed there were similarities between the teenager and Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes.
”Mourinho, though, was a big fan and told Devine that he saw shades of Bruno Fernandes in him. Others have compared him stylistically to Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour, and Tim Cahill for his ability to arrive late into the box. The name Steven Gerrard has even been whispered, but we should be wary of getting ahead of ourselves,’ they revealed.
In the public eye, he did talk up his ability, particularly in the final third.
“He’s a kid with good potential. He’s basically a midfield player but with an instinct to appear in finishing zones and to score goals. We like him and of course, for him, it was a special day,” he said (via Goal.com).
It’s this sort of player that Spurs have lacked ever since the departure of Christian Eriksen, whose goals, assists and phenomenal dead-ball ability puts him amongst the best the Premier League has seen over the last decade.
Capable of playing as a no.8 and a no.10, Devine is clearly an attack-minded and playmaking gem capable of filling the Dane’s great void in the long term.
It’s no wonder he has been dubbed the “whole package” by his former coach Harry Brooks, who also told The Athletic:
“The talent, the attitude, the ability to always turn it on. The tenacity, the aggression. When it comes to looking at that whole picture, he’s the best player in the academy. He could play for England one day.”
If Conte wants to find another Eriksen, then he ought to take a bold risk and unleash the 17-year-old prospect into his first-team squad more often. A place on the bench is a good start, that’s for sure.