Dele Alli was just 11 when he first joined MK Dons, nearly eight years ago.
But this week the teenager became the club’s biggest-ever sale, as Premiership giants Tottenham Hotspur snapped him up with a £5million bid.
But this is not quite goodbye for Dele – the Spurs deal means he will stay at the club on loan until the end of the season. But after that he is expected to join the London club’s first team.
This is his story.
Earlier this season Dele told the Citizen: “I was born in MK. It didn’t take too much thinking about when they asked me to sign.
“I came to the very first game at stadium:mk. I saw all the players run out, and I knew straight away I wanted to play for MK Dons.
“My favourite player I ever saw here was Jason Puncheon, he scored some great goals and he was really exciting to watch. I joined the club at the U11s.
“I remember Gareth Edds scoring the goal that kept Dons up. And my adopted dad was one of the guys who helped take down the National Hockey Stadium, so we would have a little kick about there!”
Dele quickly became one of the club’s hottest prospects, being just 16 years old when he made his debut in an FA Cup tie against Cambridge City; his first touch was a back-heeled pass. His first goal came against the same opposition in the replay during the Dons’ 6-1 win. But the club were careful to nurture Dele, limiting him to just seven appearances.
It was only last season that Dele became a fixture in the Dons team, while also establishing himself in the England youth set-up. This season he has stepped up yet another level.
He has notched up 12 goals in 25 league games from midfield, and came to national attention with a star performance as Dons stunned the world by thumping Manchester United 4-0 in the League Cup.
The likes of Liverpool and Bayern Munich were set to be scouting Dele at the game and he did not disappoint. In short, he was football’s next big thing.
But just weeks later he told the Citizen: “I’m still just a normal boy, nothing has changed. I can get away with going shopping most of the time.
“I remember seeing the older players around but I was a bit shy to go over and ask them. I remember coming to ballboy here when I was in the academy and shouting at the keeper just so they’d look at me!”
After signing a five-and-a-half year deal with Tottenham there is no need for Dele to be shy any longer. The Dons’ star prospect has arrived on the big stage.
Turn to Sport, pages 67-74.