Marseille were all but done signing Tottenham attacker Erik Lamela on loan, with an option to buy next year. The deal was inches close to completion, but it was off at the last minute with Mauricio Pochettino apparently intervening and blocking the loan move.
Marseille were being praised for being prompt and quick in getting a player who has undeniable talent, which has unfortunately been latent for a couple of seasons now. However, as it turns out Lamela will stay with the Lilywhites next season.
Lamela signed for Spurs in 2013, and was one of the many players brought in to replace Gareth Bale and the Welshman’s outstanding contribution to the side. However, he never got going in England and despite some encouraging signs in his second season at White Hart Lane, Lamela didn’t live up to his AS Roma hype and the outrageous sum Levy and co. paid for his services. A gorgeous rabona goal, a lot of “he can shine” glimpses, multiple excuses and justifications citing change of country, culture, language and pace of the football in England later, it looked like Spurs had finally made peace with the fact that this relationship was just not meant to be, rather than use him as a luxurious commodity if something catastrophic happened to the squad. But as it turns out, he will just that for Pochettino next season.
Lamela and Marseille would’ve been a perfect fit. The French side did admirably for most parts last season under eccentric coach Marcelo Bielsa. The Phoceens were autumn champions and were title contenders for most part of last season before losing their way towards the end. Things looked extremely positive for the side and there was a great improvement in the style of play, attitude and atmosphere at the Velodrome. However, a colossal exodus which has made the club lose almost all of last season’s first team starters and the coach – in an absolutely inexplicable fashion – has led to one of the most decorated clubs in France become a laughing stock in European football.
Lamela would have gone to a side where his services were genuinely needed. It might sound trite, but it is a fact that someone can perform their best where they are wanted and needed rather than at a place where they’re continuously made to feel like they’re surplus to requirements. In this window, Marseille have lost a phenomenal player in Dimitri Payet. The Frenchman was absolutely exceptional for the club last season.
No player in Europe’s top 5 leagues created more chances than Payet last season. The now West Ham player needs replacing and Erik Lamela could’ve been that player for the French side. Together with Remy Cabella and Lucas Ocampos, the Argentinean could have helped replace the giant void made my the departures of Andre Ayew and Payet, both of whom are doing exceptionally well at Swansea and West Ham United. Many felt that the 23-year-old could never adapt to the fast and physical nature of the Premier League and would still be his AS Roma self in a foreign league and Marseille could have been a perfect destination for him because of that.
Given the additions of Clinton N’jie and Son Heung-Min, there seems to be plenty of options for Pochettino to use out wide and keeping Lamela makes little sense immediately. However, the Argentinean coach must have thought of some factors which resulted in the deal being stopped at the last moment.
Some reports in France suggest it was because Spurs were unable to land Saido Berahino from West Brom and the manager thought it wasn’t a bright idea to let the squad be short of players despite all the additions they have made this season. Few will disagree and fewer will agree but eventually, Lamela gets another shot at proving himself in front of the Spurs faithful. The hope now is that Lamela, still at a young age, can come good at Tottenham in his third year at the club.
For Marseille, things look grim again. It is unfair that the French window shuts a day earlier than England as Spurs still have a chance to land Berahino if they can persuade West Brom at the last minute, but the French club, who thought that they had almost completed a deal for Lamela and then had that pulled away from under their feet, have no time to do anything else now.