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Ex-River Plate star Erik Lamela set to shine for Argentina and Roma

Erik Lamela has all the qualities to become a major part of the Argentinian national side, writes Charlie Reynolds

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Erik Lamela will join up with Lionel Messi in the Argentina squadPhoto: The Sport Review

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Argentina’s forthcoming friendly with Switzerland has provided manager Alejandro Sabella with an opportunity to try out some of the different options available to him.

While this has led to call-ups for veteran players, such as 31-year-olds Maxi Rodríguez and Hugo Campagnaro, it has also seen the inclusion of a player who looks set to be a part of La Selección for many years to come.

That man is Roma’s 19-year old midfielder Erik Lamela.

In less than two years, he has gone from the River Plate youth team to being one of the first names on the Roma team-sheet – only vice-captain Daniele De Rossi, Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg and Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanić have started more games for i Giallorossi.

Lamela’s inclusion in the national squad will come as no surprise to those who saw him, almost single-handedly at times, struggling to save River from relegation last season.

Ultimately he was unable to prevent the historic demise of one of South America’s most successful clubs, but he attracted a few admirers in the process and an €18m summer move to Roma ensued.

Lamela was quick to impress on his first start for the club, scoring a delightful goal after just eight minutes, and while things have not always gone so well, his first season in Serie A has generally been hugely impressive.

It is ironic for a country where players are often labelled as ‘the next Messi’, that perhaps one of their brightest hopes for the future bears quite a resemblance to a young Cristiano Ronaldo.

Lamela possesses similar speed, ball control and athleticism – all qualities which the Portuguese winger showcased early in his career, without the histrionics that were at times more synonymous with Ronaldo’s performances.

The Roma midfielder’s career did almost follow the same path as his exalted compatriot Messi – Barcelona attempted to lure a 12-year-old Lamela across the Atlantic, but he was eventually persuaded to stay in Buenos Aires.

Although Argentina are particularly blessed with a range of attacking talent, there is no reason why Lamela cannot force his way into contention, particularly if he can maintain the high standards he has set so far this season.

Ángel Di María, who is undoubtedly a fantastic talent, but who has at times attracted criticism for selfish play, is one man who will perhaps be looking over his shoulder a little nervously.

Whatever the future holds for Lamela, as someone who saw the beginnings of his career in Buenos Aires, it would come as a great surprise if he does not eventually become an important part of Argentina’s national side.

Get 5/1 on Balotelli to score and/or be sent off!

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