Name: Erik Lamela
Club: AS Roma
Position: Attacking Midfield
With speculation linking Tottenham winger Gareth Bale to Real Madrid hotting up, in a deal that could potentially break the world transfer record, attention at the North London club has already moved to finding potential replacements for the Welsh flyer. Andre Villas-Boas' side are favourites to sign Brazilian playmaker Willian - currently out of favour at Anzhi Makhachkala - while it appears that there is also real interest in Roma attacking midfielder Erik Lamela.
- Spurs favourites for Willian signature
While the player's agent Pablo Sabbag denied that a deal is close on Tuesday afternoon, news outlets in both England and Italy continue to report that Spurs intend to land the young Argentine in the coming days - with Roma reportedly valuing Lamela at around €35 million. Money will not be an issue, assuming the transfer of Bale comes to fruition, but can Lamela help Spurs overcome the departure of their biggest attacking threat?
If signed, Willian would likely slot in on the left of the Spurs attack, playing the creative, inverted forward role that he performed at Shakhtar Donetsk, while Lamela would be in direct competition with Aaron Lennon for a place on the right of the Tottenham attack. Left-footed, Lamela scored 15 goals in Serie A last campaign from his starting position on the flank and, as a consequence, has drawn recent comparisons with Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo as transfer speculation increased in recent days.
There are indeed similarities between the pair; they occupy a similar area of the pitch, they are both tall, athletic players and both also possess high levels of technical ability. However, there are also distinct differences in the two players' skill sets. Ronaldo is somewhat of a phenomenon in terms of power and directness when running with the ball, with Lamela less forceful when dribbling. However, there is an elegance and a creative dimension to the Argentine's play that the Portuguese forward lacks.
While the 21-year-old Roma star cannot match Ronaldo's return in terms of goals and assists, a haul of 15 goals and five assists in Serie A is a fantastic tally for a player of his age. Indeed, Lamela was recently described by compatriot and former team-mate Pablo Osvaldo as being at just 50 percent of his full potential. Whether he will fulfil that potential at Roma, though, is beginning to look doubtful.
Over the past year, when in difficult situations, it has been Bale who has come up trumps for Tottenham at important times. His pace and dynamism have been a key feature of the Spurs attack and, despite the additions of Roberto Soldado and Nacer Chadli, his goal threat from deep will need replacing.
Willian is not that player and, while Paulinho can help Villas-Boas side come to terms with the loss of Bale's drive, he will have the defensive duties that his midfield role encompasses to contend with. Lamela, then, would be seen as the key to coping with the loss of the Welshman's threat on the flanks. On paper, a forward line of Willian, Lamela and Soldado would be a significant improvement on the Spurs front-three of last season. However, football is not quite as easy as just throwing together a collection of names.
"Lamela is a guy who can be unstoppable when he runs towards goal. He has pace and technique, quick reactions, good aim and stamina," was the assessment of coach Aurelio Andreazzoli last season, when discussing what Lamela can bring to a side. Given that Spurs' director of football Franco Baldini only recently arrived from the Italian capital side, he too will be well aware of the qualities that the River Plate academy graduate can bring to Tottenham's potential new look side. It is manager Andre Villas-Boas, though, whose job it will be to maximise those attributes.
Whether the transfer will come to fruition before the September 2 deadline remains to be seen, and almost certainly depends upon whether Bale does indeed head in the direction of the Santiago Bernabeu. Spurs, though, are not wasting anytime identifying targets to replace their star man, should he eventually depart. The lessons of last summer's mismanagement have been learnt and, with Baldini overseeing transfer activity, the club look well placed to take their next step up the Premier League table into the top four.
For further discussion on any of the players featured in The Scout's Notebook, Christopher can be found on Twitter - @chris_elastico. More of his work profiling rising talents can also be found at TheElastico.com.