What Tottenham signings Erik Lamela & Paulinho will add to Spurs
Tottenham broke their transfer record for Paulinho and again for Erik Lamela this summer. Charlie Reynolds examines the pair
While Arsenal surprised the world on Monday by securing the highest-profile signing of the Premier League transfer window, their north London rivals Tottenham spent the summer, and more than £100m, dramatically overhauling their squad.
Andre Villas-Boas recruited no fewer than seven new faces as he looked to not only replace the myriad talents of Gareth Bale but also finally secure that elusive Champions League spot.
Five players arrived from all corners of Europe, including the Danish wunderkind Christian Eriksen and Spanish hitman Roberto Soldado, as Tottenham were remoulded in their manager’s image.
The club ultimately broke their transfer record on three separate occasions, with two of those record signings, coincidentally the club’s first and last of the window, coming from South America.
The first new arrival at White Hart Lane was the Brazilian Paulinho, a £17.5m recruit from Corinthians who looks set to add some real quality to Tottenham’s midfield.
Described, presumably complimentarily, by Juan Román Riquelme – a man not known for lavishing effusive praise on players – as a South American Frank Lampard, Paulinho is a box-to-box midfielder who has established himself as a key component in the Brazil national side.
The 25-year-old has already spent time playing in Europe, an unhappy spell as a teenager in Lithuania and then Poland, where he was subjected to racist abuse and nearly considered quitting the game.
However, he returned to his homeland to rebuild his career and was ultimately signed by Corinthians in 2010, the club recently promoted after a humiliating relegation to Brazil’s second tier in 2007.
It was the making of Paulinho, who shone in their title-winning side of 2011, only outscored by striker Liedson, and then helped the Sao Paulo club to continental success as they claimed the Copa Libertadores crown in 2012.
It is his goal-scoring capabilities that have marked him out as a departure from the recent style of Brazilian volantes, players like Gilberto Silva with the ability to stifle the game, but who have been much lambasted by national fans longing for the sort of midfield creativity for which their country was famous.
Paulinho netted 20 times in 86 games for Corinthians, helping them overcome Chelsea to win the Fifa Club World Cup at the end of 2012, and he has become an important part of the national side, scoring five goals in 19 games.
It was his goal that helped rescue a late draw against England in the Maracanã in June and his impressive performances in the Confederations Cup were a crucial factor in Brazil’s ultimately successful campaign.
All in all he seems a perfect fit for the Premier League and a player who could really make Spurs a force to be reckoned with.
Tottenham’s other South American recruit, and their current record signing, is Argentine attacking midfielder Erik Lamela, who arrived from Roma in a deal said to be worth up to £30m.
Lamela is a product of River Plate’s famed youth system, who unlike his illustrious countryman Lionel Messi, turned down a lucrative move to Barcelona at the age of 12.
Instead he opted to stay at the Buenos Aires giants, breaking into the first-team at a young age and soon showing off his prodigious talent even as
River, crippled by years of mismanagement, slipped dangerously towards relegation.
Despite relegation in Argentina being decided by an average of points accrued over three years – a system originally designed to prevent the big clubs from ever going down – River ultimately paid the price for several years of underachievement and in 2010, for the first time in their 110-year history, they were relegated.
However no blame can be apportioned to Lamela, who aged just 19 and playing in the coveted and crucial No10 role, almost single-handedly rescued a poor side with a superb season as the creative heart of the team.
However with River relegated, their star asset had to be sold, and so perhaps a little earlier than planned, he moved to Europe and Serie A side Roma.
Despite a slightly troubled and underwhelming first season in the Italian capital, which included an alleged dressing room altercation with Pablo
Osvaldo, now of Southampton, and a three-match ban for spitting at Juventus defender Stephan Lichtsteiner, Lamela soon found his feet.
Under the tutelage of newly appointed, ultra-attacking coach Zdenek Zeman, the Argentine flourished – enjoying greater success when moved wide than in the more central creative role he had previously undertaken.
Given that club icon Francesco Totti once named Lamela as his heir at Roma, it was frankly something of a shock that i Giallorossi decided to sell him this summer.
However their loss is undoubtedly Tottenham’s gain and the 21-year-old looks set to be a real star.
While, given his position, he will perhaps be the new arrival most expected to replace Bale, Lamela has shown from his time at River an ability to cope under the pressure of fan expectation.
Although he does not have anything like the defensive ability of Bale or his electric acceleration, he has a fair amount of pace and is blessed with the talent to glide past players with fantastic dribbling skills, not to mention an innate ability to cut in off the flank and drive into the box – something that saw him reap 15 league goals last season.
The fact that he is capable of playing in a more central creative role, more akin to former River Plate legends Pablo Aimar or Andres D’Alessandro, means he offers great versatility in attack and marks him out as a Premier League star of the not too distant future.