More important, there is no sign of any schism within the team itself. Rio Ferdinand, a leading member of the Golden Generation, admitted last month that club rivalries “killed” the England teams he was a part of; the enmity between Manchester United and Liverpool, or Chelsea, was too strong to be set aside for the good of the national team, he said.
Alli, by contrast, regards spending six weeks in the company of players from Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea as “getting to see my mates.” He is, of course, especially close to other Tottenham players on the national team — particularly Eric Dier and Harry Kane — but there is no division along party lines. “There are a lot of players I get along with,” Alli said. “We came up through the youth system together, so it’s nice to get together again.”
Though part of that is down to the Football Association — which has made an effort in recent years to bring young players through age-group teams together, rather than sending the best straight to the senior team — much of it comes from the players themselves.
A few weeks ago, on the night that Real Madrid faced Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals, word seeped out on social media that Alli was live-streaming a game of Fortnite on Twitch. Soon, 25,000 people were watching him. Not long after, he did the same with Kane, Kieran Trippier (another Tottenham player) and Harry Maguire, all members of England’s squad this summer.
It has become something of a pretournament tradition for former England players to suggest the solipsism of the millennial generation is to blame for the country’s failures at the international level. Earlier this month, Paul Ince, a former captain, suggested Southgate should erect a giant tent at England’s base near St. Petersburg and fill it with bar games: A similar facility, he said, helped pass the time at the 1998 World Cup in France. In “World In Motion,” an account of the 1990 World Cup, Terry Butcher remembered players bonding over practical jokes, card schools and illicit nightclub visits.
Such distractions would, doubtless, sound hopelessly antiquated to Alli and his peers. The first item he packed for Russia was his PlayStation; he and the squad have asked for several rooms to be equipped with those consoles at the training facility. He will maintain his presence on social media, too, though “not posting lineups, obviously.”