Dele Alli has said he was molested by a family friend when he was just six years old in an reveal-all interview that also explains how he spent six weeks in rehab this year due to a sleeping pills addiction and started dealing drugs at the age of eight.

Alli opened up like never before when speaking to Gary Neville on The Overlap podcast, with the two retaining a positive relationship since working together during the latter’s time as England coach.

But Alli’s career has unravelled since the highs of his younger days, and he has now revealed that a troubled childhood saw him sexually assaulted by a friend of his alcoholic mother, start smoking at seven years old and hide drugs under a football while riding his bike at eight.

“[My childhood is] something I haven’t really spoken about that much, to be honest,” Alli told Neville. “I mean, I think there were a few incidents that could give you kind of a brief understanding.

“So, at six, I was molested by my mum’s friend, who was at the house a lot. My mum was an alcoholic, and that happened at six. I was sent to Africa to learn discipline, and then I was sent back.

“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, that was eight. Eleven, I was hung off a bridge by a guy from the next estate, a man.

“Twelve, I was adopted – and from then, it was like – I was adopted by an amazing family like I said, I couldn’t have asked for better people to do what they’d done for me. If God created people, it was them.

“They were amazing, and they’ve helped me a lot, and that was another thing, you know – when I started living with them, it was hard for me to really open up to them, because I felt within myself, it was easy to get rid of me again. I tried to be the best kid I could be for them.

“I stayed with them from 12, and then started playing first-team, professionally, at 16. It all sort of took off from there.”

Alli also explained how his return from his loan spell with Turkish club Besiktas at the start of this year coincided with the worst of his downward spiral, and led to him checking himself into rehab in London.

“I got addicted to sleeping tablets, it’s a problem not only I have. It’s going around more than people realise in football,” Alli explained.

“Now is probably the right time to tell people. It’s tough to talk about it as it’s quite recent and something I’ve hid for a long time and I’m scared to talk about.

“When I came back from Turkey I came back and found out I needed an operation.

“I was in a bad place mentally. I decided to go to a modern rehab facility that deals with addiction and mental health and trauma. I felt it was time for me.

“You can’t be told to go there, you have to make the decision yourself.

“I was in a bad cycle. I was relying on things that were doing me harm. I was waking up every day, winning the fight going into training every day smiling - willing to show I was happy.

“Inside I was losing the battle and it was time to change. When I was told I needed surgery I could feel the feelings I had when the cycle began.

“So I went there for six weeks. Everton were amazing and supported I will be grateful to them for ever. For them to be so honest and understanding I couldn’t ask for anything more during a time I was making the biggest decision of my life - doing something I was scared to do. I’m happy I’ve done it.

“There is a stigma around it and it’s something people don’t want to do. Going into rehab is scary but I could never have imagined how much I would get from it.

“I was in a bad place. A lot happened to me when I was younger that I couldn’t understand and I was doing stupid things that I blame myself for.

“Going there and learning about it, it was never really under my control.

“Understanding learning it has helped. I let go of some bad feelings I was holding which was slowing me down.”

Discussing how rehab had helped him, Alli said: “They taught me in rehab, I’m not allowed to say I was a bad kid but I got in trouble a lot, you know, with the police. I had no rules, I grew up without any rules. Like I said, my mum she drank a lot and I don’t blame her at all for what happened.

“I think going to [rehab] really helped me understand her and the things she was going through and what she had to deal with, and it was all she knew.

“Me going into rehab now has helped me understand her – it was all she knew. Like, even when she let me go and I got adopted, she knew and I knew that it was what was needed to even have a chance of living the life I wanted to live and be successful. And because it was only going one way if I stayed there.’

He added: “I don’t speak to my mum anymore. “So, when I was 18, my biological mum and dad went to the newspaper and like, started accusing the family that adopted me of doing all this stuff when they didn’t know what they had, like they were the ones that used to make me go and see my mum. I never wanted to go.

“They would always tell me, ‘She’s your mum, like you should have a relationship with her’. And I think that spoke volumes, like what they were doing. They were just doing it generally because they’re amazing people. So yeah.

“And then my mum – my blood mum and dad – went to the press saying that these people are taking advantage of me. They want to go through my contracts. And I hadn’t spoken to him for years. And I knew that wasn’t my mum’s decision because I know she didn’t really leave Milton Keynes. Like there was no way she’d done that.

“After that I just felt so betrayed and let down. And hurt that I just couldn’t keep the relationship with my mum. And my dad, I don’t want a relationship with him either.”

The Overlap is a YouTube channel from Gary Neville in partnership with Sky Bet .