One thing that seemed like it would always be a constant at the start of each Tottenham Hotspur season was that Erik Lamela would prove time and time again why he was not worthy to be our record signing. With countless possessions squandered, overdribbling, and poor link up play, it felt like the highly anticipated midfielder from Roma would never truly live up to the hype and would go his separate ways from the club that broke the bank for him. Pochettino, in the face of disgruntled and frustrated fans, continued to vouch for him and continuously backed the idea that Lamela “can develop his game” and urged fans to “be patient with him”, and after season after season of unbelievably underwhelming performances, the young Argentine may just be ready to prove why Poch was right.
To tell the story of Erik Lamela, one must start before his time at Spurs. The nineteen-year-old Argentine was sold from River Plate FC to AS Roma for a fee of twelve million euros. His first year in Italy was nothing spectacular, but for a nineteen-year old having never played in a major European league, his four goals and six assists was something to be proud of. The following season Erik Lamela truly began to turn some heads with a stunning fifteen goals and five assists to go with it. People began to really rate the twenty-year old as serious potential to be world class. Hailed by some as the next Messi, which is an extreme comparison that gets floated around about many players, but for some reason fans and pundits alike were very ready to get behind this description, and that does not exclude one Portuguese manager who had just come into a whole lot of transfer money.
On 30 August 2013, Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur completed the transfer of Erik Lamela from Roma for a deal worth an initial £25.8 million, plus up to £4.2 million in bonus payments, officially breaking Tottenham’s signing record, originally set by Paulinho and Soldado earlier in the transfer window. Said to be Tottenham’s replacement to Gareth Bale, building up extreme excitement to all the Spurs faithful, he did nothing special in his first year. Scoring one Europa league goal, no goals and just one assist in the Premier League, he disappointed a few, but he was young, and he would grow and develop was the opinion of many, expecting a big season from him the following year.
The next Premier League campaign kicked off with Tottenham boasting a new manager from Southampton hailing from Lamela’s native country. He wasted no time getting to work selling off dead wood players and bringing youth through the ranks. Pochettino, more than anyone it seemed, wanted Erik to succeed. He understood better than most as well the value of patience in players, and how far that patience would take one Erik Lamela.
Unfortunately, this year began more of the same for now twenty-two-year-old Erik. His name was no longer associated with promise and potential. He was becoming known for sloppy passes that would inevitably give away possession, excessive dribbling, and timidness in front of goal. He was met by groans from the crowd when he would receive the ball, and the flair he brought to Roma that gifted him with so much success simply did not cut it in England, and people began to think his time with Tottenham was coming to an end sooner rather than later, but Pochettino was not one of those people. While he only accumulated two goals, one being a stunner against Burnley, he achieved a season-high of seven assists and scored “that” rabona goal in the Europa. While none of these are the statistics that Spurs fans had anticipated from the wonder boy they thought they had signed, it was a step in the right direction. Lamela was gradually becoming more of an asset to the North London side and less of a liability.
Things were tough for Erik, he was in a country whose tongue he did not speak, played in front of fans who were tired of seeing him on the team sheet, and had no real motivation left. Rumors circulated that Roma were going to make a bid to bring him back, that he was no longer in Pochettino’s plans even though he showed improvement and Poch dismissed these rumors early on. But even so, these thoughts can get to a player and it showed, something needed to change.
Now twenty-three, and his third campaign with the Lilywhites and second under Pochettino, Lamela altered his style of play drastically. He abandoned his stylish play and fancy footwork that took him so far in Italy and traded it in for pure hard work and a bulldog mentality. This new Lamela would run his heart out every single game, chase down every player on his side of the pitch until he won back the ball or fouled them trying, and it worked! Lamela scored a Premier League high of five goals and nine assists, and a pleasantly surprising eleven goals in the Europa League and all this done while covering a shocking 11.4 km per 90 minutes in the Premier League, 7th highest in the league according to Express. Finally, Spurs fans were being rewarded for enduring, to say the least, the rough first couple of seasons in London. Lamela slowly began to cement his place in the starting eleven, and started to prove that Pochettino was correct in waiting for him to come around, but more importantly Lamela finally started to show something he was desperately missing in his game, confidence. With this confidence, his footwork began to return, the goals started to come, and soon the groans of fans became songs belted at the top of the blue and white army’s lungs. At the end of the day though, he is Tottenham’s record signing, and there was still an abundance of naysayers, claiming that these numbers are okay, but not what they should be given his price tag, and honestly they are not wrong.
Now Erik enters his fourth year with Tottenham and it is being labelled as “The season of Lamela”. He is looking more confident than ever, and is looking to make a huge impact with the team this year. With a fantastic preseason and a strong start to the regular season, with the Argentine scoring Tottenham’s first goal of the campaign, this has all the makings of the year Lamela proves just how much he is really worth.
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