Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has compared his relationship with Dele Alli to that of a father and son, saying: "You love him, but sometimes you have to be tough."
The attacking midfielder has been a key figure for Spurs this season, scoring 16 goals in 30 Premier League outings, but his discipline has been called into question on more than one occasion.
However, Pochettino believes Alli is the type of player who thrives on love rather than punishment and he is determined to bring the best out of the England international.
"Time has shown that we are right to support him, and to give love, because he is so young," Pochettino is quoted as saying by London Evening Standard.
"This character is perfect for a player. When you are winning and you feel that to lose on the pitch is like losing your life, those are the qualities we want in a player. He needs to improve, but he needs love.
"It is not about punishing him. I always knew from day one that the relationship would be tough. It was friendly, lovely, but tough too. It is like when you have a son. You love him, but sometimes you have to be tough."
Alli, who turns 21 on Tuesday, has received plenty of praise for his fine performances and Pochettino says the attention is well deserved.
"If he is not the best young player in Europe, he is one of the best," the Spurs boss added. "Look at his age and his statistics. His potential is massive.
"Because he is so young, he can improve a lot, he can learn a lot. He gets better and more mature every day. He is improving his skills and also his character."