Why Erik Lamela Has Been Serie A's Breakthrough Star This Season
Serie A's seen a few breakthrough performances this season. Stephan El Shaarawy's early-season form almost single-handedly lifted AC Milan out of trouble, and he'll likely be on the top of many people's lists for young player of the season.
Paul Pogba has been incredible for Juventus too, making an immediate impression after his controversial switch from Manchester United. The French youngster moved to Turin rather than extend at Old Trafford because he believed that he'd see more game time under Antonio Conte. With 19 appearances in Serie A this season, he's been proven right.
Farther south, the impressiveness of 19-year-old Marcos Aoas Correa's debut year at the back for Roma has lead to rumours linking him to some of Europe's biggest clubs including Barcelona, according to Marca.
Marquinhos had only really come to the forefront the season previous with Corinthians, and considering the fact that he's still not fully developed physically and would need time to settle properly on a new continent, little was expected in the short term following his move to the Italian capital.
Surprisingly, the young Brazilian settled right away at the Olimpico, and throughout the season he has looked more self-assured and experienced than most of his more mature teammates. His agility and intelligence makes him an effective defender and an enjoyable footballer to watch at the same time.
Now, great things are expected.
It is not, however, Marquinhos who I think has been the most impressive young star in Serie A this term. It's his teammate, Erik Lamela.
Lamela has become absolutely indispensable to Roma this term, perhaps second in importance only to club captain Francesco Totti.
The Argentinian came to Roma last season with plenty of fanfare, not least because he'd already impressed for River Plate and of course, he was coming with the Walter Sabatini stamp of approval.
Roma's director of football is one of the best talent scouts in the business, and in the past has picked some of Serie A's biggest stars for greatness at an early age. Gennaro Gattuso, Alessandro Nesta, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Javier Pastore, and Josip Ilicic are just some of the players Sabatini has ushered through, and he's struck gold yet again with Lamela.
Luis Enrique's Roma endured an up-and-down time before the Spaniard quit at the end of last season, and though young Lamela's six goals and six assists suggested he could cut it in Serie A, it hardly justified the €14 million the Giallorossi paid for his signature.
Zdenek Zeman's arrival on the Roma bench changed all that. Lamela has been electric right from the start off this term. And even though the Czech coach was unceremoniously sacked by the club and replaced with caretaker Aurelio Andreazzoli mid-season, Lamela has continued to shine.
The exciting winger is in many ways the complete forward. Fast, powerful, intelligent and hard working, Lamela not only connects the forward line with those behind—he also creates and finishes many of Roma's best chances.
Lamela's electric pace on and off the ball has caught some of the best defenders in the league off-guard and has allowed him to score 15 goals in 29 appearances in 2012-13. He also has three assists to his name, but in truth the Argentinian has been responsible for more goals than that because his quick-thinking and ability to play a defence-splitting pass have been the catalyst to many Roma attacks.
Who's been your breakthrough player of the season in Serie A?
Of course, the likes of El Shaarawy have perhaps been as impressive on a singular level. But while the Faraone lead the line almost on his own for Milan at the beginning of the season, the rest of the squad have since caught up. Giampaolo Pazzini is a constant goal threat, and the arrival of Mario Balotelli in January gave the Rossoneri yet another outlet.
Lamela, in contrast, has been one of the few players at Roma to perform consistently throughout what's been a torrid season for the Lupi. You'd expect the likes of Totti and Daniele De Rossi to fight tooth and nail to improve their hometown club's results, but the way in which Lamela has often been the Giallorossi's brightest light, even in dark times, is a measure of just how good he is.
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