Dele Alli has revealed he was saddened to "read so much s***" about England teammate Raheem Sterling during their disappointing Euro 2016 campaign.
The Three Lions were dumped out of the competition in embarrassing fashion at the round of 16 stage, losing 2-1 to minnows Iceland.
Several members of the squad were subjected to harsh criticism in the media, but Manchester City star Sterling was the main scapegoat, singled out for wasting possession too often and wasting clear-cut openings.
Roy Hodgson left his post as England manager after the tournament and Gareth Southgate was appointed soon after, with the team's fortunes having been revived dramatically in the three years since.
Sterling was one of the standout players during a brilliant run to the 2018 World Cup finals and he has developed into one of English football's finest players.
Alli, who experienced his first major tournament with England at the Euros in France, recalled the unfair treatment of his colleague in the media before expressing his admiration for his attitude and work-rate.
“The worst [criticism] I’ve ever seen is [of] Raheem at the Euros," he told the OTRO app. "He is honestly one of the best people you could meet in terms of how he’s dealt with everything.
“That was my first major tournament and Raheem’s a year older than me. I don’t know how I would have handled all the heat that they were putting on him.
“Raheem was playing first-team football a lot sooner than I was and was a much bigger name before I started coming on to the scene.
“I already had this picture of him from what I’d seen and when you meet him he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with and he’s so focused and dedicated.
“But you hear and read all this s*** about him.”
Sterling has contributed 19 goals and 11 assists in over 40 appearances for City at club level this season, playing a key role in their pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple.
He also continues to lead by example for the Three Lions - netting his first hat-trick for his country during a 5-0 European Championships qualifier against the Czech Republic in March.
He is back in Premier League action with Manchester City on Sunday at Crystal Palace, while Alli is in line to feature for Tottenham against Huddersfield on Saturday after recovering from injury.