Speaking to the Daily Mail, Tottenham Hotspur legend Ossie Ardiles has backed compatriot Erik Lamela to prove his worth in Sunday afternoon’s Capital One Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley Stadium.
Lamela, 22, joined Tottenham from Roma in August 2013 for a club-record £25.8 million as part of the rebuilding effort that followed Gareth Bale’s £85.3 million departure to Real Madrid.
The Argentina international failed to perform up to expectations during his debut campaign at White Hart Lane, however, registering just one assist in nine Premier League games under Andre Villas-Boas, before a back problem saw him ruled out for much of Tim Sherwood’s tenure.
He has since performed better in Mauricio Pochettino’s side this season, scoring four goals and adding eight assists in 34 total appearances, but has still struggled to live up to his large transfer fee.
Nevertheless, Ardiles, who endeared himself to Spurs fans in the 1980s as part of the FA Cup and UEFA Cup-winning teams, believes his fellow Argentine is primed to have a starring role against their London rivals on the weekend.
“Certainly this would be the right time to see the best of him,” the former midfielder and manager said. “He has the right mentality to shine in this kind of game and to show what he can do. He had a very difficult time in his first year, this year he has shown a lot of signs of improvement.
“He is starting to understand the pace of English football and because of that he has been better - but he can do much better, he is hugely talented for his age and the best of him is yet to come.
“We have not seen the best of his so far but Sunday is a chance for him to really hit those sorts of levels.”
Ardiles also added that he speaks to Lamela on a regular basis about life in north London, and believes his struggles are no different to what other national team stars went through upon first arriving in England.
“Of course, I always try and help him,” he continued. “Obviously Mauricio is his No 1 but I try to help him very, very much. Understanding English football is not easy - the pace is the biggest hurdle, not just for him but for many people.
“Carlos Tevez was a huge success in England with Manchester City and Manchester United but when he and Javier Mascherano first joined West Ham they struggled.”
Ardiles also reserved special praise for the work Pochettino has done since arriving at the club in the summer, and is adamant the other Argentine at White Hart Lane can lead the club to silverware.
“He has already achieved a lot,” he said of Pochettino. “He has done extremely well but if he delivers a victory at Wembley on Sunday, straight away he will become a hero.
“Chelsea are the best team in England right now so it will be a tough game but having said that we have beaten them at White Hart Lane [on New Year’s Day] in a very good game and to beat them we have to give this kind of performance again.”