“For the Tottenham fans, I think I will be remembered well. For the other clubs, maybe not.” There aren’t too many quotes I can think of that adequately sums up how Tottenham Hotspur fans feel about Erik Lamela, but that probably comes the closest.
Lamela gave his first interview with the English media since his sale to Sevilla this past summer, speaking with Tom Roddy in the Times about his status as a Spurs cult hero, his relationships with Mauricio Pochettino and Jose Mourinho, and his disappointment over the Champions League final in 2019.
Erik was the final remaining member of the so-called “Bale Seven,” the players who were purchased with the then-English record £85m sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid back in 2013. While Lamela perhaps never lived up to his almost limitless potential when he first signed, he somehow managed to outlast all of the other players signed alongside him that summer, becoming one of Tottenham’s longest-tenured players in recent memory in the process.
“I remember [the Bale Seven]. It was a new project, with a lot of new players. Some of them I spent many years with, like Christian [Eriksen]. I was the last one!
“The era with Pochettino I can say was the best, no? From when Mauricio arrived, the first season maybe wasn’t the best but after that we got better and better. We were always very close to the top of the league, second or third. I enjoyed every season there but to reach the Champions League final [in 2019] was a big success for the club.”
Lamela doesn’t have as good memories of that final. Not only did Tottenham lose that match after an early penalty conceded by Moussa Sissoko for a dubious handball in the box, but Erik never made it onto the pitch — he was an unused substitute in what would’ve easily been the biggest match of his career.
“It was one of the most important games of my life to play this final but I can say nothing because I didn’t play a minute and that’s something I will always have inside me that doesn’t feel good.
“It was hard to lose that game but, at the same time, we knew that the team had never arrived in that position before and that we’d brought the club very high so you have both things.
“If we win that game we could be in the history forever. Of course, sometimes these types of games change your history. After reaching the Champions League final there was a big pressure on the team to do well and to always get better.
Pochettino was fired just months later, a move that came as a big surprise to Lamela who found out about Poch’s sacking and the appointment of Jose Mourinho via Twitter.
“We didn’t expect it. He did an amazing job to bring the club to such a high position, to qualify for the Champions League for many years in a row and always in a position to win something. The way he managed the team and the way we were training so hard every day, we gave our all to always improve and it was a mental shock that we were there.
“[Mourinho] is an amazing coach. His mentality is amazing. He tried his best for the club — I can say that because it’s the truth. I know how hard he worked for Tottenham, he was a great guy as well and I enjoyed the time with him.
“When the managers go you feel bad because the feeling is that the team is not doing amazing. Of course we all have a responsibility of when the team wins and when the team loses. Those moments don’t feel good.”
Lamela’s penchant for dogged pressing and workrate, audacious rabonas, and most notably piquant shithousery endeared him to large segments of Tottenham fans and earned him the ire of his Premier League opponents. Just ask Anthony Martial. But his career was dogged by major injuries that kept him from fulfilling his potential, and his Spurs tenure will always have a sort of “what might have been” quality to it.
So far this season Lamela has been used as a rotation option at Sevilla, but has played well — he has four goals and an assist in just over 500 minutes, with a more than respectable npxG+xA of 0.54 and most importantly, five yellow cards. His career is likely starting to wind down since leaving Spurs, but he still looks back fondly at his time at Tottenham and advises Spurs fans to be patient with their current team.
“They have a very good team, a lot of young players. They changed a lot of the team since I was there and it’s a new project and sometimes new projects need a lot of time, but in football you never have time to build: you always have to win. This is the difficult thing. But I believe Tottenham is a great team, with a great squad, a lot of potential and, in the future, is going to be better.”