He might not yet have the global profile – or indeed €50m price tag – of compatriot Javier Pastore, but the news that Liverpool have joined Barcelona in the race to sign River Plate’s Erik Lamela should get the Kop jumping…
Real Madrid v Barcelona may forever be El Clasico, but no single city derby is as politically and socially intense as the Super Clasico played between Boca Juniors and River Plate. So for Erik Lamela, the latest wonderkid to wear the white and red of River, to boss the fixture in one of his first senior appearances last November speaks volumes of his talent.
How do I know this? Because my brother was there. Living in Buenos Aries for a year he became an ardent Boca fan and, where possible, followed Boca home and away. This match was his first at El Monumental and, despite being annoyed that Boca went down 1-0 to their arch rivals, he couldn’t stop talking about Lamela when we spoke on Skype the next day.
As he had it, the kid looks to be a cross between Redondo and Gerrard. Straight-backed, two footed and with an appreciation of space that belies his age, the 18-year-old not only upstaged Riquelme, but drove River to a win that was unexpected.
Lamela set up the goal, forced the Boca keeper into a pair of sprawling saves from left-footed free-kicks, took every dead ball and 90% of the throw-ins. Standing 6”1’ and with a huge stride redolent of Rivaldo, he gobbled up the space between midfield and defence and Boca simply couldn’t live with him.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t forgotten about him until this morning, when news reports stated that Liverpool have joined the race to secure Lamela’s signature as the long-term central midfield replacement for the increasingly injury-prone and, some might say, waning Steven Gerrard.
Lamela set up the goal, forced the Boca keeper into a pair of sprawling saves from left-footed free-kicks, took every dead ball and 90% of the throw-ins.
Barcelona have never forgotten about him. Following an appearance on Argentine TV aged 12 which showed a then pony-tailed youth running through a repetoire of tricks similar to that of the young Scott Parker in that McDonalds ad all those years ago, Barca offered River £100,000 a year to take Lamela to their academy. The request was denied.
In theory, Barcelona will still be favourites should River decide (or be forced by economic pressure) to let Lamela follow the well-trodden route of Argentine talent to the Camp Nou. Lamela, though, wants to play, and the battle for midfield places in Pep Guardiola’s squad is beyond intense.
Since the beginning of the Benitez reign, the spine of Liverpool has not been a problem and the signing of Andy Carroll has further increased the need for genuine wide-players who can deliver crosses from areas that hurt the opposition and allow the new number 9 to create havoc while facing the goal. Yet with Gerrad the wrong side of 30 and Aquilani not up to the rigours of the Premier League, the long-term future of the spine will need to be addressed.
Thankfully for Liverpool supporters, John W. Henry has constantly reiterated his desire to buy young talent and, should Dalglish be rewarded with the long-term deal that will provide both stability and a platform for long-term success, then Lamela fits the bill perfectly.
AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea have all been linked with the trequartista, but they have established players who wear the Number 10 shirt. Liverpool have Joe Cole. Time for Kenny to get on the plane and tell the kid about the Liverpool Way.
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