When we signed the 'Magnificent Seven' Erik Lamela stood out as the one that would fill a small part of the void left by Gareth Bale. He was signed for £30M from Roma by Franco Baldini who had previously plucked him away from River Plate to Italy. This was a massive coup. The next potential superstar footballer. Which is probably why Daniel Levy sanctioned the move.
Most of the seven that arrived that summer hardly looked like the players Andre Villas-Boas wanted as he attempted to fit them into a system that looked unsuited for them. He refused to adapt. The past isn't relevant any more but fixing up for the future is. Mauricio Pochettino appears to be without ego or agenda. He gets on with the job with the tools at hand, minimal fuss, no politics.
Lamela didn't have a first season that can warrant depth of analysis. The reason for the 'failure' tag was because we didn't see any of the promise we expected. Injury played a major part. The games he did perform in gave us cameos of touch and vision but mostly consisted of him struggling with the pace and tempo of English football. Hardly a surprise but at this point - compounded by the AVB sacking and Tim Sherwood appointment - most defaulted to that £30M tag and wondered why we paid so much for a player that didn't look like he could hit the ground running. For £30M you do expect to see more strength with mental attributes to match. Lamela just seemed to be lost in amongst all the mediocrity and frustration. An unfair battleground perhaps or a challenge he couldn't live up to.
This season he has again blessed us with cameos of delicious skill and instinctive ability. His Rabona goal in the Europa League isn't something an ordinary player scores. But the extraordinary has yet to blossom. He's still only 22 years of age. He's had his third coach since signing for Spurs. The fact he does possess natural talent means that if his application and decision making is worked on then very little will hold him back from showing the freestyle expression we paid for. The latter needs a backbone, the backbone needs to be earned.
What gives me the confidence is that he has looked to match others in the side in terms of work ethic. He's tireless, relentless in his pursuit of the ball. He's always looking for a pass. Sure, his first touch can sometimes be poor (frustratingly so for someone with natural ability) but he's working as part of a collective and is sacrificing selfish endeavours to be a functional cog in the machine. Long term that price tag is going to demand more than functional. Extra special is the goal.
It's because he isn't the player we expect him to be that so many Spurs fans are waiting to pass judgement. But if the issue is his strength in mindset and physicality, the fact he's beginning to display these qualities means the launch pad will be solid enough for the more fancy stuff later down the line.