Jose Mourinho refused to address questions over Dele Alli's future at Tottenham on Friday, and insisted he was "not ready to make public my vision of the situation."
Alli has found himself on the peripheries of the Spurs squad this season and has played just 29 minutes of Premier League football since the opening weekend of the campaign, when Mourinho hauled him off halfway through Tottenham's 1-0 defeat to Everton. What opportunities the 24-year-old has received have come in the Europa League and domestic cup competitions, where he has two goals and two assists in eight games.
with the French champions having already made a loan move for the England international in October. However, Spurs are hesitant to agree any deal that limits their squad when they are competing on four fronts, particularly with a temporary deal meaning they would get little financial return for parting ways with a player of real talent.
Alli's future is further complicated by Spurs' only being able to replace him with a homegrown player, who in general are priced at a premium. UEFA rules necessitate that clubs name eight such players in their 25 man squads and with Ben Davies (Swansea) and Eric Dier (Sporting) having spent their early years away from the English system, Tottenham do not have space in their current group for a non-homegrown player.
Craving even more coverage of the world's game? Listen below and subscribe to ¡Qué Golazo! A Daily CBS Soccer Podcast where we take you beyond the pitch and around the globe for commentary, previews, recaps and more.
When asked whether he was prepared to let Alli move on without finding a replacement, Mourinho said: "It's not a question that I'm comfortable to answer. Of course I know how to answer you, but I'm not ready to answer, I'm not ready to make public my vision of the situation. I'm sorry about that, but I'm not going to answer.
"The question you are asking me is if I would let Dele go without getting a player in change and I'm not going to answer that question."
Mourinho's reticence to address Alli's future contrasts sharply with his comments over Harry Winks, another player who has found Premier League minutes hard to find and who his manager described earlier this week as "a player that I like, a player that I need ... a player we don't want to sell, a player we don't want to loan."
There is a notable difference in the standing between Winks and Alli, the former just a Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg injury away from an extended run in the side while the latter has Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso ahead of him in the pecking order.
Mourinho's deep squad has allowed him to rotate almost wholesale between European and Premier League fixtures, but few of those whose opportunities have generally come against Ludogorets and Marine could honestly suggest that they would not rather be with the likes of Harry Kane and Heung-min Son in the strongest XI.
The Spurs boss acknowledged that it is a challenge to keep his squad happy, saying: "In every dressing room [there] are unhappy players for sure. If any one of my tribe [managers] tells you in his dressing room are only happy players I don't think it's true or somebody is so, so lucky to have a miracle in his hands. I believe in every dressing room there are unhappy players.
"Then you can have unhappy professional and the unhappy professional is the one that is unhappy but feels it is his duty to work, work, work and work. There is the unhappy that believes that it is not his job to fight and work every minute for the squad and the club.
"But unhappy players you have everywhere in every club. I promise you that."
Mourinho did not explain into which of these categories Alli falls.