The Tottenham star was once labelled the "new Messi". Is he finally fulfilling that heavy label?
Many Tottenham fans will be hoping that Erik Lamela is finally turning into the player Spurs hoped he would be when they signed him from Roma two years ago, but Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo have revealed that Barcelona were tracking the Argentine from as young as 12 back at his first club River Plate, as they sought to discover the next Lionel Messi.
Lamela's sensational performance against Premier League leaders Manchester City last weekend gave Spurs supporters renewed hope that their record buy was finally coming good after a difficult period in North London, and having shone in Serie A and become a regular fixture in the Argentina setup, the 23-year-old has arguably already made a successful career for himself. Whether he can ever hope to match Messi is a statement many people would find hard to stomach, but as one of the best players of all time, if Lamela gets to 85% of his international captain's ability he'll easily be one of the Premier League's top stars.
But such was his obvious talent as a youngster, Barcelona made an attempt to sign the Spurs man before he was a teenager, only to see River Plate turn down the approach, according to Joan Patsy, a sports consultant who was close to influential figures at Camp Nou. They then offered a package that would see work for Lamela's family and schooling for the player himself, with Roma finally convincing the Buenos Aires giants to sell for big money when he was 19-years-old.
Mundo Deportivo also suggest that Messi himself is a big fan of Lamela, who may be expected to replace the injured Barca star for their national team in the upcoming matches against Ecuador and Paraguay. Messi is even alleged to have given the Spurs man a pair of the boots he scored his first international hat trick in as he was about to make his debut for Argentina.
If the footballing legend really does rate Lamela as much as the report suggests, and if Lamela can continue to come good on his talent at Spurs this season under compatriot Mauricio Pochettino, then Tottenham fans will surely be smiling.