Erik Lamela made me look a bit silly last season.
When Tottenham secured his signature from AS Roma in a club record £30 million deal, I considered it to be a very astute piece of business. There was little doubt in my mind that this enthralling young winger would take the Premier League by storm and I waxed lyrical about his stratospheric potential to plenty.
“Get him in your fantasy football teams, lads. This Lamela is the business.” I still haven’t lived it down.
Lamela’s first season at Spurs was a wholly forgettable one, as the Argentinean faded into obscurity at White Hart Lane. An inability to adapt to England, lingering fitness concerns and a subsequent loss of form conspired against the forward, meaning he made just nine Premier League appearances in his debut campaign for Tottenham.
“One of the biggest flops in Premier League history” the detractors labeled Lamela, as critics forensically pulled apart Tottenham’s transfer dealings following the sale of Gareth Bale. As one columnist in the British press put it, Andre Villas-Boas thought he was selling Elvis and getting The Beatles in return, but he ended up with Rick Astley instead.
If you were going solely on the evidence of last season, perhaps Spurs did drop a major blunder in the transfer window when it comes to their Argentina man. After all, as early as January there was talk in the media about Lamela potentially returning to Italy, per The Mirror, and former Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood admitted back in April that his player was unsettled and struggling to reach full fitness, per the Express.
But to write off a young man so talented and so unfamiliar with the abrasive nature of English football would be naive. Indeed, such is the indisputable level of talent in the feet of the 22-year-old, even during on his times on the periphery of the Spurs squad, I’ve found it hard to abandon the standpoint that he has plenty to offer to England’s top flight yet; this season, the early signs are that he might.
For what was probably the first time in the white strip of Spurs, Tottenham fans caught a real glimpse of Lamela’s mercurial ability. Of course, it was only a pre-season friendly, but the former Roma man was sensational against Toronto FC, notching two goals and running riot in the opposition defense to help the Londoners to a 3-2 win. Encouragingly, he exuded the same swagger that poured out of him during his time with the Giallorossi.
Playing a full part in Spurs’ preparations for the new campaign should ensure Lamela is better readied for the Premier League and in Mauricio Pochettino, hopefully he has a manager that can help rediscover and ultimately accentuate his abilities as a player.
In Serie A, Lamela tore defenses to pieces with a devastating combination of blistering pace, supremely quick feet and a composed head in dangerous areas. Pochettino demands a mixture unrelenting dynamism and on-pitch intelligence from his teams, so in that sense, the forgotten man of White Hart Lane could be set to emerge from the shadows and play a vital role for Spurs in 2014/15.
We’ve seen it before, after all. Players from overseas can initially struggle to take to life both on and off the pitch in the immersive, unrelenting hotbed of English football. Some admittedly don’t settle at all, but the most talented imports typically find a way to flourish; Lamela is certainly of that calibre.
And much like Tottenham as a club, Lamela will only benefit from a sustained spell of stability. The White Hart Lane outfit have had undergone a massive turnover of both players and managers over the past few seasons, creating an unsteady foundation that will have made it exceptionally difficult for any new signings to find consistency. It’s worth remembering that of all the fine players that Spurs recruited last summer, it was only Christian Eriksen that really shone.
But Pochettino could be set to reap the benefits of a host of those players—all of who are clearly extremely capable—having a season of transition and acclimatization in England. And of all the players that came in and floundered last summer, Lamela looks one of the most likely and—going off his most recent performance—one of the most determined to put his stamp on Tottenham’s season.
Indeed, he could have took the easy option and moved back to Italy either last January or this summer. But recently Lamela determinedly spoke of his desire to make a name for himself in the Premier League, per Sky Sports:
“I wanted to play but, unfortunately, my injuries meant I couldn’t. That made me feel bad because the club had paid a lot of money for me and I wasn’t even able to get on to the pitch.
“But I never wanted to leave. I was determined to stay at the club and show everybody — my team-mates, staff and the fans — that I was a good player.
“Now I feel better and my mind is 100 per cent focused on doing well for Tottenham, like it has always been.”
If he preserves his fitness and continues to play a full part in Tottenham’s pre-season, then there’s little doubt that he has all the attributes required to be a roaring success for Pochettino. And without wanting to be too clichéd, a fit and firing Lamela would be like a brand new signing for Spurs.
Get Lamela in your fantasy teams this year. This time, I can assure you, he will do the business.
Watch highlights of Tottenham’s 3-2 win against Toronto: