Everton midfielder Dele Alli says he was sexually abused when he was six years old.
In an emotional interview with former England footballer Gary Neville, Alli revealed the abuse he suffered as a child before he was adopted aged 12.
He said he was “molested” aged six, started smoking aged seven and was dealing drugs at eight years old.
Alli, 27, recently spent six weeks in rehab because of a sleeping pill addiction and mental health issues.
One of football’s brightest young talents, Alli was part of the England squad that reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and helped Tottenham to the Champions League final in 2019.
However, his form dipped and he left Spurs to join Everton in February 2022 before going on loan to Turkish side Besiktas last season.
Alli returned to Everton at the end of last season because of injury.
“When I came back from Turkey, I found out I needed an operation and I was in a bad place mentally,” he told The Overlap.
“I decided to go to a modern-day rehab facility for mental health. They deal with addiction, mental health and trauma.
“I felt like it was time for me. You can’t be told to go there. You have to know and make the decision yourself or it’s not going to work. I was caught in a bad cycle. I was relying on things that were doing me harm.
“I was waking up every day and I was winning the fight, going into training, smiling, showing that I was happy – but inside I was definitely losing the battle. It was time for me to change it.”
Alli said he had come out of rehab in the United States three weeks ago and “could never have imagined how much” he would get from it as “a lot happened when I was younger that I could never understand and figure out” and it had helped him on that front.
He later paused as he became tearful when talking about being “molested” by a non-family member.
“My mum was an alcoholic. I was sent to Africa [to stay with his father] to learn discipline, and then I was sent back,” he said.
“At seven, I started smoking, eight I started dealing drugs.
“An older person told me that they wouldn’t stop a kid on a bike, so I rode around with my football, and then underneath I’d have the drugs.
“Eleven, I was hung off a bridge by a guy from the next estate, a man.
“Twelve, I was adopted – I was adopted by an amazing family, I couldn’t have asked for better people to do what they’d done for me. If God created people, it was them.”
Alli said he is not in contact with his biological parents, adding he feels “betrayed” and “let down” after they claimed in 2018 his adopted family were taking advantage of him.
He said he does not “blame” his mother “at all” after going to rehab helped him “understand her and what she was going through” but the “hurt” caused by those claims means he does not want a relationship with her.
Speaking of his father, who last made contact when he was playing for England, Alli added: “I don’t want a relationship with him either.”
He changed the name on the back of his shirt to Dele in 2016, saying he felt “no connection” with the Alli surname.