Erik Lamela 20 Midfielder AS Roma
Always a prodigious youngster, Erik Lamela produced his first moment of newsworthy quality nearly two years ago when he was seen to boss a Super Clasico between Boca Juniors and River Plate. The River youngster played like he’d experienced the environment of the hotly-contested match all his life and inspired his side to a 1-0 win over their bitter rivals.
The details of Lamela’s performance were soon being reported around the world. Usually the story was either pre-empted or followed by the declaration that Lamela is one the best young players on the planet; a true story.
He is a player of immense quality and potential. Two footed and with that glorious knack of slotting into space, Lamela prefers to use skill rather than pace to bamboozle opponents. Unfortunately for defenders, he has pace to burn, just in case. He can produce wonderful passes to set up goals as well as make sure to be in the right place to score them himself.
Such was his brilliance in Argentina that it was of little surprise to anyone when he was chased by a string of clubs around Europe in the summer of 2011. Drawing comparisons to Javier Pastore in his style and play, Italy always looked like a suitable first destination in Europe for Lamela; though few expected him to choose Roma over Milan. We can only assume that Lamela bought into the plan that Luis Enrique took with him to Roma when he initially got the job.
Enrique, the former Spain international and Barcelona B coach, had a style that he clearly wanted to carry over from his time coaching with the Catalan giants. He brought in a number of players to match his ideas although it is safe to say his experiments didn’t work. While some of Enrique’s ideas just didn’t go down well, such as trying to play Daniele De Rossi as a centre-half, his capture of Lamela was one that many associated with the club were keen to see work.
His first season wasn’t the best. There were only brief glimpses of the play he produced at River Plate. Instead, the 2011/12 season for Erik will be remembered for his tangling with Pablo Osvaldo and the incident with Juventus’ Stephan Lichtsteiner that saw Lamela spitting on the full-back. He didn’t look happy in the Italian capital and there were some suggestions that he may follow Enrique out of the club and back to where he came from over the summer.
Thankfully for both the player and the club, Lamela himself saw enough in the appointment of Zdeněk Zeman to remain in Rome. The style that Zeman played with Pescara looked suited to Erik; rather than the possession for the sake of having possession football that Roma ended up playing at times last season. Zeman likes to play all-out attack and he has already seen a response from Lamela. Despite Roma struggling, conceding too many goals was always going to be a problem, Lamela has struck eight times for the Giallorossi in the league as well as picked up a couple of man of the match awards.
He has returned somewhat to become the creative force that he was at River Plate and a couple of the goals he’s scored have been really delicious as well. His first against Udinese that sees him taking the ball along the by-line is worth seeing; simply for its audacity. There are less than a handful of players in the world that would have attempted and succeeded in scoring a goal like that.
After a stumble when he first arrived in Italy, Erik Lamela is really starting to come out of his shell at Roma.
“Nine goals and six assists saw him as one of the only successes of the Luis Enrique experiment at Roma and he’s started this term in the same form. Could truly explode under Zeman, most definitely one to watch!” - Adam Digby (ESPN, Sports Illustrated)
“With around 30 games under his belt from his first season in Serie A, Lamela seems to be fitting in just fine in Rome and despite playing wide, rather than in his favoured central role, he has started this season with some goal scoring form. A star in the making.” - Ed Malyon (The Mirror, The Guardian)
C+ Getting the hang of things nicely