2017 was not a good year for Erik Lamela. He was reeling after an accident left his brother paralyzed and confined in a wheelchair after an accident at a swimming pool. His beloved dog died soon after wards. And then there was the injury in both of his hips that kept him out of Tottenham matches for over a year. These are trials that would shake any person individually, and Lamela suffered through them in a short span, away from his family in a foreign country.
For months Spurs fans have wondered about Lamela, because Tottenham Hotspur was not exactly forthcoming with details about his situation. There were rumors that he had a degenerative hip condition that could end his career, or that he failed a drug test and the club was covering it up, or that he was unhappy and wanted a move back to Serie A.
None of those things were true, and Lamela has now opened up in an exceptional interview with the Guardian’s David Hytner. In it, he talks about how he was shaken to his core by the accident to his brother Axel, with whom he is very close, and how he received support from Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino and his teammates during that time.
Lamela also addressed the injury that kept him out of the Tottenham lineup for a year and eventually required surgery on both hips, setting him back after what was looking like a very promising season at Spurs. He said that being off the pitch was one of the hardest things he had to deal with, because there was nothing he could do to improve the situation.
“[My therapist at Roma] said that we could treat it without an operation. [When I continued to feel pain,] that’s when I took the decision to have the surgery.
“It hit me hard. There were really sad days for me, particularly being here in London. OK, I’m with my close family but I’m here to play football. I can’t lie. If it weren’t for that, I would be back in Argentina. You’re so far from the rest of your family, your friends, the things you hold dear. You are in that place just to play football, so it’s an ugly situation. You want to play but you are unable to do so.
“I am someone who can’t be without football – I have to play so it was incredibly hard. I had the doctors telling me the whole time that I’d get better, I’d get back to my level, but your head doesn’t let you relax. There were always doubts running around. I worried that I might never be OK again.”
Lamela returned to the Spurs pitch in November against Leicester and made his first start against Brighton in mid-December. He still hasn’t regained his place as a starter for Tottenham, and has been eased back into the side by Mauricio Pochettino. He was said to be one of the players afflicted by the flu in last weekend’s draw against Southampton, and he’s also a doubt for Saturday’s FA Cup fourth round match at Newport County with a knock.
Nevertheless, Erik said that he has been buoyed in the dark times by his faith and by the birth of his son Tobias in November. But mostly, it was his own desire to play again, and to be a part of a Tottenham team that he loves and respects that lifted his spirits.
“I had to fight so hard to play for River [Plate] and that gave me a lot of strength to go on. I also moved a long way from Argentina for my football. It was difficult to leave at 19 but it made me grow as a person. My mentality is that I play football to win. You have to do everything you can to win. The most important thing is that you leave nothing out there on the pitch.
“I’m happy at Tottenham. If not, I would have left. I feel a part of the club, I’m at home here. I am not thinking about how long is left on my contract.”
The full interview is available at The Guardian and is well worth a read.