Lamela: Last man standing
Comment and Analysis @ghostgoal
In an exclusive interview, Erik Lamela reflects on being the last of Tottenham’s seven signings from 2013 to remain at the club. Watch Tottenham vs Leicester live on Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Main Event on Sunday from 3.30pm; Kick-off 4pm
Last Updated: 18/07/20 9:20am
When Tottenham signed seven players in the summer of 2013, the youngest and most expensive of the seven, joining just before the August deadline, sparked most excitement.
Erik Lamela, then 21, had scored 15 goals for Roma in the previous season, making him the fifth highest scorer in Serie A. One of the brightest prospects around, this was a Spurs coup.
Seven summers on and there have been highs and lows, professional and personal, for the Argentine, but Lamela endures. He has featured in all seven of Tottenham’s games since the restart. Against the odds, he is the last man standing of those seven signings back in 2013.
“Honestly, I did not think I would stay this many years,” Lamela tells Sky Sports. “But now I feel very good. I am enjoying it, I feel motivated and I feel part of the team here. I love the people at the training ground. I am almost one of the longest players to be here, no?”
Lamela’s prospects did not look so good when he missed over a year of his career with a hip injury before returning against Leicester in November 2017. But against those same opponents on Sunday, he expects to make his 35th appearance of this disrupted season.
It is a crucial game too, one that would see Spurs move into the top six if they avoid defeat.
Tottenham vs Leicester
July 19, 2020, 3:30pm
“We know that we have to play in the Europa League,” says Lamela. “It is very important for the club, for the fans and for the players. For everyone here.”
Of course, Europe has provided some of the highs of Lamela’s time at Tottenham. Asked to name his favourite experience in a Spurs shirt, perhaps unsurprisingly he chooses the night in Amsterdam that secured the club’s place in last year’s Champions League final.
“An amazing moment.”
He hopes there will be many more to come. Lamela shared a bond with compatriot Mauricio Pochettino but he is already a favourite of Pochettino’s successor Mourinho.
Indeed, the Portuguese singled him out for praise in December when he made himself available for selection despite not being fully fit. It symbolised the spirit that he demands.
“He is doing a good job,” says Lamela of Mourinho. “Since he arrived the team is improving in a lot of aspects. He is pushing the team in the right way and in the right direction.”
Mourinho will always find use for players with a work ethic and Lamela has that. This is not the archetypal Argentine No 10 that Spurs fans might have expected all those years ago.
He has a wand of a left foot, that is true. There is magic in those boots as anyone who was there to witness his wonderful rabona goal against Asteras would no doubt attest. He is still adding to his game too. “I can still do better. I know that I can improve.”
But it is his enthusiasm on the pitch, his harrying and his pressing, that has made Lamela such as effective player for Tottenham at times, particularly under Pochettino.
That is the sort of work that is appreciated by team-mates – a subject that was in the spotlight at Spurs recently when skipper Hugo Lloris publicly called out Heung-Min Son.
The goalkeeper raced from his goal to confront his colleague for what he perceived as a failure to track his man in the win over Everton. The issue was soon smoothed over but for Lamela, a close friend of the captain, these high standards are typical of the man.
“He is one of the greatest guys that I have met in football,” he says of Lloris.
“He is a person who is a leader in the dressing room and he shows on the pitch that he is one of the best in his position, one of the best goalkeepers in the world.”
Lamela is not quite the captain’s right-hand man – he offers a boyish smile at the thought of being one of the senior men at Spurs these days – but he has had an important role to play in helping fellow Argentine Giovani Lo Celso settle at the club this season.
“We are together almost all the time,” Lamela reveals.
“If not here at the training ground, at home together before this lockdown happened. I tried to help him at the beginning but, to be honest, I can see now that he is doing very well. He is very comfortable here. I am very happy for him that he is enjoying the team.”
Lo Celso has been winning admirers with his performances, but will he be able to fill the void left by Eriksen? Lamela is optimistic about his future.
“He gives us a lot of things on the pitch,” he explains. “He has so much potential and he is young as well. I hope for him and the club that he can play a long time here.”
It was Eriksen’s departure in January that confirmed Lamela’s status as the last of the so-called magnificent seven. How long his own Tottenham journey will continue remains to be seen but there is work to do first – an ambition still left to fulfil.
The 12-year-old Lamela, already a prodigy, was once asked his plans for his future and stated his desire to win the World Cup for Argentina like Diego Maradona before him.
Sixteen years on, the same question is put to him and he repeats the claim.
“That has not changed,” he says confidently.
But there is an addendum now. An additional ambition. One that has been building up through these past seven years but remains, as yet, unfulfilled.
“I would also like to win something with Tottenham,” he adds. “I have had so many years here and I think the team, the players and the fans deserve something more.”
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