Tottenham Will Not Miss Bale If Erik Lamela Can Find His Electric Best Form
Gareth Bale was conspicuous by his absence on Sunday afternoon. As Tottenham fought for North London bragging rights against eternal rivals Arsenal, the Welsh wing wizard was nowhere to be seen, left out of the 22-man squad. It may have been the last Spurs game for which Bale was still technically a part of the institution.
According to the Telegraph, the player will complete a world record £90 million move by Monday evening to Real Madrid, finally putting an end to the summer's most protracted and tiresome transfer saga. Of course in the world of rumour and speculation only the sight of Bale holding aloft the merengue shirt will finally end the doubts, but at this point he seems almost certain to move to the Bernabeu.
But aside from the massive windfall, Tottenham have further reasons to be happy.
In signing Erik Lamela from Roma, the Londoners may just have purchased the perfect replacement on the left for their soon-to-be-departed maestro.
The Argentine played little part in Sunday's 1-0 defeat against Arsenal that was decided by an early goal from Olivier Giroud. His debut was confined to a cameo off the bench with just a quarter-hour left to play, meaning his impact was minimal. But with time, the 21-year-old Buenos Aires native could prove more than up to the challenge of replacing Bale.
Let's not forget, the birth of his career coincided with the challenge of keeping Buenos Aires giants River Plate in the Primera Division, accompanied by a pressure and tension surrounding the club almost unimaginable elsewhere.
At just 18, Lamela began to carry the Millonarios on his shoulder as established stars like Ariel Ortega descended into the depths of their own personal woes and notched four goals in 34 games in the season that River went down by way of a violent playoff against Belgrano.
This writer, for one, was rudely introduced to the talents of the then-teenager in the Cilindro ground of Racing Club, where Lamela embarked on a mazy run that had fans rubbing their eyes in disbelief.
It is worth noting for Spurs fans, who may be more accustomed to seeing Lamela play as part of a front three in Roma, that the youngster began his career in precisely the position they will need to fill with Bale's exit. He started in the football world as a left-sided midfielder, proved adept in a more central role and, at River, distinguished himself playing on the outside of a 4-2-3-1 setup.
While Bale favours brute speed and physical force down the flank, Lamela's approach is rather more subtle.
Unusually for a player of his stature (at 6'0", he hardly fits the profile of the diminutive Argentine No. 10) Lamela is blessed with brilliant close control and loves to weave through defenders in the final third.
His pace is impressive rather than mind-blowing, but he has the vision and awareness to continuously play his teammates into the game. That's not to mention the ability to score with both feet and the head from across the pitch.
This talent meant he finished 2012/13 just one goal behind Dani Osvaldo as Roma's top scorer, with 15 goals from 36 starts, and in truth the £25.8 million that Spurs paid for his services could prove to be an excellent piece of business.
He will need time to settle, of course, as most players from Spain's or Italy's leagues require on making the jump to the hectic, brutal pace of the Premier League. But even Gareth Bale did not immediately adapt to life at White Hart Lane; a trawl through the Daily Mail archives turns up a gem of a report, stating that the club were ready to sell the "Spurs flop" for just £3 million back in 2009.
Argentine players have a historical reputation within Tottenham, thanks to the trailblazing experiences of Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa back in the 1980s. Lamela will be looking to follow in the footsteps of those two cultured midfielders and most importantly make sure that the departure of Bale is forgotten in record time by the Lilywhite faithful.
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