Blog by: Yash
With him having played just 3 full seasons so far, the record fee of £30 million that Tottenham Hotspur paid to secure the services of 21-year-old Argentine Erik Lamela might sound a gamble. However, such has been the impact of the prodigious talent of the youngster in Italy and Argentina, that the amount might still end being a sound business, and the player may just be the perfect replacement for Gareth Bale, who has left the club to join Real Madrid.
Born in Carapachay, a town close to Buenos Aires, Lamela began his footballing education at the prestigious River Plate Academy at the age of 7. He first made headlines when he scored 120 goals for the River Plate youth team in a season, and a film crew travelled to Argentina to interview a 12-year-old Lamela. In the interview, Lamela said that he wanted to follow the footsteps of his idol Diego Maradona, and win the Football World Cup for his country.
His reputation was enhanced with every game, and soon Barcelona came knocking to take him to Spain, in a similar deal to that was given to Lionel Messi. But River Plate managed to keep hold of the talented youngster, who later made his professional debut for the side in June 2009 at the age of 17.
The next year saw his first full season for the team, but it ended with tears as the Argentine traditional powerhouse club suffered a shock relegation. With the demotion of the side to the lower division, a move to Europe clearly beckoned for the 19-year-old Lamela.
AS Roma stepped up to purchase the player for €19 million in August 2011, and Lamela quickly cemented his place in Luis Enrique’s side. Roma finished 7th in the Serie A that season, and the team found a new manager in Zdenek Zeman in the next season. It was under Zeman, who gave Lamela full freedom to roam in the attacking third, that the player blossomed and he scored 15 goals off 33 appearances.
Lamela is no stranger to big games and derbies, and has impressed in the Superclasico – River Plate vs Boca Juniors, and also in the intense AS Roma-Lazio matches in the Serie A. The experience of playing in high pressure games will serve in good stead for Spurs, especially in matches against their London rivals.
With his poise, ball control and athleticism very similar to that of Cristiano Ronaldo’s in his younger days, there have been inevitable comparisons. Lamela is probably not as quick as Ronaldo, nor is dribbling as good, but he has a better understanding of the game, and though he might not score the incredible number of goals as Ronaldo, he is likely to develop into a better creative threat.
One aspect of his game where Lamela needs to work on is the defence department. Spurs will hope that Lamela will develop defensive awareness with time, as he is likely to be expected to shoulder some defensive duties in the demanding games in English Premier League.
Lamela already boasts of three caps of the Argentine national team, and set up Gonzalo Higuain’s goal in the friendly against Italy recently. He is widely expected to be a part of the squad for Football World Cup 2014 and many predict him to be a huge success in international football in future.
Franco Baldini and Andre Villas-Boas had chased Lamela’s signature regardless of Bale’s transfer talks, which shows the club’s keen interest in the player. Now that Bale has left, Spurs have got a ready-made replacement for the star-player, and Lamela will be keen to quickly establish himself as a fan’s favourite just like his predecessor, and take his new team to new heights.