Footballer Dele Alli has revealed he was sexually abused when he was six years old.
The former England star, 27, told Gary Neville’s YouTube channel The Overlap: “At six I was molested by my mum’s friend who was at the house a lot. My mum was an alcoholic.”
Alli, who returned to Everton in April, opened up about his difficult childhood and how it pushed him to attend a rehab facility in the US.
“I was sent to Africa to learn discipline and then I was sent back.
“At seven I started smoking and then at eight I started selling drugs.
“An older person told me they wouldn’t stop a kid on a bike so I’d ride around with my football and underneath I’d have drugs.
“At 11 I was hung off a bridge by a guy from the next estate. A man.”
But Alli said his life changed when he was adopted by “an amazing family” at 12 years old.
“I couldn’t have asked for better people to do what they done for me,” he said.
“If God created people it was them – they were amazing and have helped me a lot.
Alli said his childhood trauma played a part in his decision to enter a rehab facility for six weeks in recent months.
“It got to a point where I was in a bad place, a lot of things had built up.
“We all have emotions and we think the best thing to do sometimes is to just stuff them down and hide them and lock them away but over time they just build up and it gets to a point where we’re human and it breaks and it all comes out and I turned to all the wrong things.
“A lot happened when I was younger that I could never understand.
He said going to rehab was the “biggest decision of my life [and] something I was scared to do”.
The former Tottenham and England midfielder admitted he was addicted to sleeping tablets and had previously turned to excessive drinking.
“I was caught in a bad cycle, I was relying on things that were doing me harm.
“It’s been going on for a long time without me realising it, I was doing [it] to numb the feelings I had – I didn’t realise I was doing it for that purpose,” he said.
“It’s probably a problem not only I have, I think it’s going around more than people realise in football.
“I’ve definitely abused [sleeping tablets] too much. It got really bad at some points and I didn’t understand how bad it was but I was never dealing with the root of the problem – when I was growing up, the traumas I had, the feelings I had – I tried to deal with it all by myself,” he said.
“I lost myself for a few years.”
Alli also said he considered hanging up his boots three years ago at the age of 24.
The former Tottenham player said: “One morning I woke up and I had to go training.
“I was in a bad place. I was literally staring in the mirror and I was asking if I could retire now. At 24. Doing the thing I love.
“For me that was heart-breaking.”
The Overlap host Gary Neville said on Twitter the interview was “the most emotional, difficult yet inspirational conversation I’ve ever had in my life”.
Alli returned to pre-season training at Everton last week.