Dele Alli burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old for MK Dons against Manchester United and has not looked back since.
The midfielder dominated the EFL Cup game as the Dons, only founded a decade earlier, dumped the Premier League giants out.
Since then, Alli’s rise has been meteoric as he made both his Premier League and England debuts in 2015 under the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur.
As with every prodigious English talent, the comparisons have come thick and fast for Alli, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Thursday.
A goalscorer blessed with wonderful technique, correlations between Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard began to be drawn.
But while Alli represents a modern attacking midfielder capable of drifting between the lines and into the box, the aforementioned pair of Premier League legends were utilised in more traditional central midfield roles.
However, Gerrard and Lampard possessed the talent and diligence to cement their reputations as some of the best ever seen in the English top-flight.
But is Alli on course to replicate or even surpass those legends of the game?
Thanks to transfremarkt.com, we have been able to break down every season all three enjoyed up until their 23rd birthday (the same age as Alli).
Scroll down to see how the talented trio compare in all club competitions.
As we can see, the years of League One football with MK Dons have helped build up Dele Alli from scrawny teen into Premier League superstar.
As well as gaining valuable experience, the teenager was prolific from midfield and scored and created plenty of chances for the likes of Benik Afobe – who scored 10 goals in the first half of the 2014/15 season.
Conversely, Gerrard and Lampard have far more modest stats as their careers began slowly, before reaching a raucous crescendo.
At West Ham (and with a brief loan spell at Swansea City) Lampard was thrust into the world of senior football with a mid-table Premier League side. As a result, he played significantly more times than the younger Gerrard, who had to fight to get his way into a star-studded Liverpool team.
With the likes of England internationals Jamie Redknapp and Paul Ince in his way, the Reds fan had to wait for his chance to break into his preferred central midfield role.
Indeed, Gerrard’s lack of goal and assists can be attributed to his early position. Such was his versatility and athleticism, the youngster made his bow as a right-back.
After being given a torrid time by David Ginola in just his second game, Roy Evans allowed the starlet to make a name for himself in his preferred central midfield role and it is safe to say he never looked back.
Given much of Alli’s early career was played in the lower leagues, it is perhaps more prevalent to focus specifically on Premier League involvement, for the purpose of a fair test to get more accurate results for comparisons.
As we can see, Alli is still way ahead of both Lampard and Gerrard statistically at the same age. His Premier League record for someone so young is exceptional and, provided he can remain fit, the midfielder should reach his half-century in the league by 2020.
However, there are always mitigating circumstances to be considered which go beyond just stats and figures.
As mentioned at the very beginning of this article, Lampard and Gerrard did not play in more advanced roles until much later in their careers. While at Chelsea, Lampard escaped accusations of nepotism from bitter Hammers fans to become one of the best goalscoring midfielders in history.
And Gerrard’s versatility meant he was often deployed in more defensive roles (he made his England debut against Ukraine at the back). One interesting statistic to look at from the Premier League stats above is the former Liverpool captain’s disciplinary record.
So determined was Gerrard determination to lay down a marker on his opponent, the enthusiasm quickly escalated into recklessness and suspensions.
Academy director Steve Heighway spoke to his father to learn where the anger came from, even sending the starlet to a sports psychologist after leaving his mark on Everton’s Kevin Campbell and Gary Naysmith, Chelsea’s Dennis Wise and Graeme Le Saux and Aston Villa’s George Boateng.
The midfielder also struggled from the type of injury problems Alli himself is now experiencing. Muscle strains from a rapid growth spurt saw him endure hamstring and groin strains.
Alli himself was ruled out at the start of 2019 after a hamstring strain and he can often be seen wearing brightly coloured ‘Kinesio Tape’ at the top of his legs to combat muscular injuries.
Suspensions and injuries blighted Gerrard’s early career, but the same cannot be said for Alli. Although he has unfairly gained a reputation for being a hot-head, he has never seen red in the Premier League.
Like Lampard, the midfielder prefers to focus on his own game, which is built off of drifting into the opposition box. However, Alli is naturally more athletic than Lampard and his speed and agility have seen him grab more goals than the midfielder at this stage.
Ultimately, what will define Alli and his legacy will be his trophy collection. At present, the midfielder has just the promotion with MK Dons in 2015 to celebrate after falling short in the league and Champions League with Spurs.
Conversely, Lampard and Gerrard both achieved tremendous amounts in the game at club level. Both men have lifted the Champions League trophy against the odds, with FA Cup and League Cup victories as well.
To conclude, Gerrard and Lampard displayed incredible tenacity and determination to get to the very top of the sport.
Although they may not have had the natural talent of Alli, both men were serial winners and their hard work and dedication pushed them to become two of the finest midfielders in the world.
But, as the numbers suggest, the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder is on course to eclipse them. That is, provided a lucrative offer from abroad does not lure him away from the English top-flight.