Supremely talented, Argentinian Erik Lamela has finally joined Tottenham Hotspur after days of speculation linking him with the North London side. For the third time in the window Spurs have broken their transfer record, this time shelling out an initial £26 million, potentially rising to £30 million in order, to capture one of the brightest talents in world football. So, is Lamela worth this hefty price tag and will he be able to replace Gareth Bale? These are the important questions….
Lamela’s prodigous talent was apparent when he was as young as 12 when apparently Barcelona attempted to bring him over to Europe. Lamela’s family resisted the overtures of the Spanish giants and he remained with River Plate’s famous youth system. This eventually led to Lamela making his full team debut in 2009 and he quickly established himself as a regular in the side. In the 2010/11 season, Lamela played 34 times, scoring 4, but despite the emergence of Lamela this River Plate side suffered the embaressment of relegation. In this relegation season, there was a dependence on Lamela as creatively River looked to the youngster to do, perhaps, too much and resulting in him being easier to mark out of games. Needless to say, relegation made it impossible for River to hang on to him any longer.
Italian giants, Roma pounced on the opportunity and snapped up the 19-year-old for a cut price €12 million plus several bonuses and add-ons. His first season in Italy was one of frustration as an ankle injury hindered his progression and his tendency to hang on to the ball when passing was the better option created some friction. Despite this, his talent and potential was there for all to see and this was duly noted by Roman legend, Francesco Totti, stating that Lamela could be the heir apparent.
It was in the next season that Lamela really showed why he was considered one of the biggest talents in Europe. Played on the right of a front 3 Lamela was able to cut in on to his favoured left foot to devastating effect. In 33 games he scored 15, making him one of the top scorers in Serie A and only one behind Roma team mate, Pablo Osvaldo. This is perhaps where we see the comparison with Bale, as Lamela is comfortable playing wide but is equally at home through the middle as a more traditional number 10.
That is not to say he is an exact like-for-like replacement. Bale is perhaps more direct, reliant on his pace where as Lamela is more skillful with the ball, although, frighteningly he is also lightening quick. For Spurs, he will bring this flexibility to their lineup, being able to play out wide on either side or in behind Roberto Soldado. However, one other notable difference to Bale would be defensively. Bale started life as a full-back and so regularly gets back to help out whoever is playing behind him. This is an aspect that Lamela will need to develop if he is to cover Bale’s loss by himself.
This is really of no concern when signing a player of Lamela’s calibre. The price may seem high but when you think that Bale is going for 3 times the amount it is an astute piece of business for Tottenham. Lamela will be a key part of any success that the north Londoners have this season and could be instrumental in wrestling back top four football. All with the added incentive of the World Cup next summer, Sabella has finally given in to public demand and started calling up Lamela and now he will be looking to break into the side.
Here is a little glimpse at what Lamela can do….