After an underwhelming and injury-ravaged start to his life as a Tottenham player, there were plenty writing Erik Lamela off as just another one of the expensive flops purchased by Spurs in the summer of 2013.
The Argentine only managed 10 starts last season, and frequently looked out of his depth, with the speed and physicality of the Premier League something he had never experienced before. There were even rumours that the winger would be sold in the summer – these were, of course, quashed by the club.
On the basis of Lamela’s performance against Asteras Tripolis on Thursday, they were wise to keep hold of him.
Whilst his performances are improving steadily in the Premier League –but aren’t quite in ‘wow’ territory – Lamela has now arrived in European football with two stunning goals that highlight his prodigious and precocious talent.
The first goal was one of the finest goals I’ve ever seen a Spurs player score:
It took me a few watches to even understand what the 22-year-old had managed to do (here’s a clue it’s not what it looks like).
His second strike was nothing short of spectacular, either. After waiting an age for a bobbling ball to come back down, Lamela unleashed an unstoppable left-footed volley straight into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. Job done.
It might seem premature, but Lamela’s performance last night and indeed his journey so far echo another Tottenham player who has gone onto great things. I am, of course, talking about Gareth Bale.
Bale was a promising youngster, just like Lamela. Bale arrived at Spurs, and after a decent start, was ravaged by injuries and failed to break into the Spurs team, just like Lamela.
Then one evening, Bale came to life in a European fixture, scoring a marvellous hat-trick against Inter Milan. Asteras might not be the calibre of Inter Milan, but the similarities remain.
It still took Bale some time from that moment to become the devastating attacker that he is now, and doubtless there is still work to be done for Lamela. But what last night proved is that Lamela has natural talent in bucketloads. There are precious few players that could have netted the strikes that Lamela did against Asteras, and this alone marks him out as a special talent.
With the right coaching, the right development and the right thinking, Lamela’s career at Tottenham could not only rise from the ashes, it could skyrocket.