Tottenham Are Now Being Rewarded for Patient Approach with Erik Lamela

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Tottenham Are Now Being Rewarded for Patient Approach with Erik Lamela
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Argentinian sensation Erik Lamela arrived as the finishing touch to Tottenham's transfer spree in the summer of 2013. He was the player deemed most likely to take Gareth Bale's place as Spurs' star attacker.

Having scored 15 goals in his final Serie A season by the age of 21, Lamela had shown the pace and directness to make him a success in the Premier League. 

But Lamela's debut season was one to forget. Signed for an initial fee of £25.7 million from Roma, Lamela set the imaginations of Spurs fans racing. Clips like this gave every reason to believe that Lamela could pick up where Gareth Bale had left off. 

A scouting report in the Mirror gave a very favourable judgement of the signing, and it appeared as though the huge Bale fee had been well spent. 

That level of optimism was soon shown to be wide of the mark as the Argentinian struggled to break into the team. Constant mention of Bale frustrated even Lamela and, after a rare bright spot against FC Sheriff, he took the opportunity to deny any comparisons, according to Craig Hope in the Daily Mail.

Although initially brought in gradually by manager Andre Villas-Boas, Lamela was thoughtlessly thrown to the wolves at the Etihad in Spurs' 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Man City. From that moment, his Spurs career seemed to have been judged an utter failure. 

Tim Sherwood brought down the curtain on Lamela's miserable season early when he declared that there was "no chance" his Argentina forward would be able to play again in April. 

There was certainly no danger of Lamela triggering the performance-related clauses that would have pushed his transfer fee up to £30 million. 

At this point, Spurs made their crucial decision. Rather than attempting to rush his return from a back injury or trying to recoup their significant outlay by selling him, the club made the sensible decision to declare his exit impossible and give him time to recover. 

Inter Milan's sporting director described Lamela as "a dream that we haven’t been given a chance to realise," in La Gazzetta dello Sport (H/T Metro). After his difficult first season, he could have been allowed to leave Tottenham. He would have become Spurs' ultimate nightmare. 

Apocryphal stories have long existed of players like Rivaldo "almost" joining Tottenham. Had Lamela been allowed to leave, his legacy would have eclipsed them all.

This season, Lamela looks not reborn but recovered. Last term he was injured and out of sorts, but he has produced match-winning performances already under Mauricio Pochettino and has become a key member of the squad. 

His brilliance in pre-season was tantalising, and he showed hints of similar quality in Spurs' opening league game against West Ham. But it was the Europa League away leg and the home match against QPR where Lamela really shone. 

Lamela's return to form has been recognised with a call-up to Tata Martino's first post-World Cup Argentina squad, as a replacement for the injured Lionel Messi. 

His restoration marks his first inclusion since last October. Having missed the summer's World Cup, he will be desperate to make up for lost time. 

Sang Tan/Associated Press

In Spurs' most recent game against Liverpool, Lamela struggled to leave his mark. But Spurs were soundly beaten, and it would be harsh to single him out for particular criticism. Some fans did just that, though. A selection of the least lucid Spurs fans' judgements can be found here on HereIsTheCity.com.

 

It is now that Spurs' patience with Lamela will be rewarded. His return to the form that made him one of Europe's most touted young stars and sparked comparisons with Lionel Messi will ensure that, at the very least, they are likely to make back their investment should they choose to cut ties with him. 

And yet, they won't.

Bogdan Maran/Associated Press

In more difficult times than Lamela has ever seen as a footballer, Spurs retained the faith. They never entertained selling him, even when Inter Milan persistently appeared as a suitor. 

Tottenham know what they have in Lamela. A tall, athletic and graceful forward with tactical flexibility and a sixth sense for space, Lamela has all the characteristics necessary to thrive in the Premier League. 

His countryman, Mauricio Pochettino, is now the manager and speaks his language.

Pochettino will demand much of Lamela in physical and tactical terms, but the rewards will be great. As Southampton manager, he made excellent players of infinitely less likely candidates than Lamela. At just 22, his potential remains truly tantalising. 

Lamela was to be the centre-piece of the new Roma. According to James Horncastle in FourFourTwo, "Lamela represented the future of the team, a glimpse even of a post-Totti Roma."

Lamela will be at the heart of the new Tottenham. He is the glimpse of the post-Bale Spurs. His elegance, his vision and his ruthlessness set him apart from even his most gifted team-mates.

He has survived his annus horribilis in England, and now he will thrive. In this way, Spurs are enjoying the fruits of their patience.

Having refused to rip out the orchard after a paltry first harvest, the second crop is sure to prove all the richer. 

 

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