The grass isn't always greener. Erik Lamela found that out the hard way, leaving Roma last summer in a big-money move to England with Tottenham Hotspur, where he's found life more than a little hard.
Lightning-quick, good on the ball and lethal in front of goal, the young Argentine was supposed to be the perfect player for the Premier League. Despite it being a season to forget for the Giallorossi, 2012-13 was a breakout year for the former River Plate forward, and he became one of the biggest young stars in Italian—and European—football.
The split from Roma turned out to be a rather messy breakup, and it doesn't look like Lamela's really gotten over it yet. He's struggled to adapt to life in London, and despite being the club's record signing and having cost Spurs £25 million last August, he's started just three league games.
He was used as cheap ammunition against the club's sporting director, Franco Baldini, by Andre Villas Boas following the Portuguese coach's dismissal.
AVB claimed that Lamela—and others—were forced upon him in the summer, but that claim has since been rubbished by key figures at the club. It contradicts the hugely positive noises the manager made about Lamela before and after his arrival. It's also a very different tune from a desperate man who just a few months prior had said:
I think the qualities he brings are his creativeness, his ability to find the last pass that leads to a goal. He's a natural talent. He's not a pure, pure winger; he's creative and likes to come inside and find different spaces. He's a player with tremendous potential that we have to work on. He's a wonderful, gifted footballer.
It's a fair description of Lamela as a player, and it's easy to see why an Italian team might try to tempt him back.
Inter Milan's new owner, Erick Thohir, needs to invest in manager Walter Mazzarri's squad. It needs an extensive overhaul, or at the very least a short-term injection of youth and ability. A signing like Lamela would also allow Thohir to put his stamp on the team and to show the fans he means business.
But Spurs would be foolish to let him leave. The Premier League's as close as it's been in years, and even though they've fired their manager and are currently operating with a temp, there's still a lot to play for at White Hart Lane.
Lamela will improve as he settles into English life, learns the language and gains some confidence from the fact that interim boss Tim Sherwood sees him as an important player. That's the football reason to keep him. The political reason to keep him is that admitting he was a failure would be a huge blow to Baldini, who brought Lamela with him from Roma and will now be eager for the player to prove that he was a signing worth making.
From the player's point of view, the lure of regular football in a league he knows and in a culture he's comfortable with might be attractive—not least because he'll be hoping to make Argentina's squad for the World Cup. But he'll know only too well that returning to Italy so soon is likely to provoke serious backlash from Roma supporters and leave him open to ridicule if he doesn't immediately perform to the level he showed last season.
Moving to England was a gamble, and so far it hasn't paid off. But packing up now and retreating back to Italy, after all the hype and the talk about how suited he believed himself to be to the style of football in the EPL, will only look foolish. He's got a new manager and a fresh challenge in London—he doesn't need a move to Milan to find a second chance.