The difference between Harry Redknapp’s signings during his time as Tottenham Hotspur manager and those of André Villas-Boas is vast. Where the former brought in Scott Parker, the latter acquired Etienne Capoue. While Redknapp signed Peter Crouch, Villas-Boas convinced chairman Daniel Levy to break the club record transfer fee - for the second time this summer - to secure the services of striker Roberto Soldado.
With Paulinho and Nacer Chadli also heading through the White Hart Lane entrance, this is arguably Spurs’ most productive transfer window. As Franco Baldini utilises his expansive list of contacts within the game, one name has regularly been linked with a move to the north London side; Erik Lamela.
The Italian was the man who initially brought the youngster to AS Roma from River Plate back in 2011 and the link between the technical director and winger would improve Spurs’ chances of landing the 21-year-old. He won’t come cheap, however, and it’s reported that Levy will have to fork out upwards of £30m to sign Lamela, a fee that would break their record transfer fee yet again.
If it were to go through, the likelihood of Gareth Bale departing for Real Madrid would increase considerably as Los Blancos continue to court the Welshman. Despite suggestions that Ángel Di María could be involved in a potential player-plus-cash deal, it’s Lamela that is supposedly the number one target for the club should Bale leave this summer.
Lamela was WhoScored.com’s highest rated player (7.58) for Roma last season, and having scored 15 and assisted 5, it meant the Argentine was directly involved in 28.2% of i Giallorossi's 71 goals last term. It’s thus understandable that the Serie A side would be loathe to losing such a prized asset. Newly appointed manager Rudi Garcia will be hopeful of holding onto the youngster ahead of his first campaign.
Understandably, with Francesco Totti hinting at his potential retirement next summer, the possibility of Lamela becoming the heir to his creative throne is a real one, especially if the young attacker is moved to a more central position. Yet, should Spurs acquire the player over the summer, it’s likely he’ll be utilised on the wing rather than in the centre.
Following the signing of Paulinho, it’s expected that Villas-Boas will line-up in a 4-3-3 with Sandro or Capoue and Mousa Dembélé alongside the Brazilian, meaning two wingers would flank Soldado on the frontline. This is where the attacking qualities of Lamela can be exploited. The Argentina international successfully dribbled past an opponent 99 times in Serie A last term; only Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (118) and Jonathan Biabiany (117) did so more times over the 2012/13 season.
More pertinently, he did this 40 times more than the nearest contender for Spurs - Bale (59) - signifying his direct threat that the north London side would ultimately capitalise upon as they aim to secure Champions League football next season. Lamela's overall dribble success (46.9%) is better than that of Bale’s last year (42.8%), accentuating his impressive capability to run with the ball, a facet of Bale’s game that he is often renowned for.
The lack of creative threat was particularly evident during Spurs 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. The north London side predominantly attacked down the right, with 48% of their attacking touches coming down this side compared to just 31% on the left. And while Chadli earned a WhoScored.com rating of 7.4 from the opening fixture, a more direct threat from this wing would’ve given Spurs a further attacking option in a turgid encounter, with the Belgian at times struggling to find a way past the opposition full-back.
Moreover, a further asset in Lamela's game is his ability to cut in onto his left foot from the right and go for goal, offering another weapon to his game that Villas-Boas could utilise, much like Bale on a number of occasions last year when he moved to the right wing and Aaron Lennon to the left. The Argentine netted the most left-footed goals (11) in Serie A last year, although that figure was eclipsed by that of Bale (16).
Bale would be moved to the right-flank in order to capitalise on his exceptional shooting ability with his left foot and should Villas-Boas secure Lamela's signature, it’s expected that he would operate in a similar role. But it isn’t just Lamela that Spurs have been linked with as the club supposedly battles with Liverpool for the signing of Anzhi Makhachkala midfielder Willian.
The Russian side look set to offload a vast majority of their big-named stars this summer, with the Brazilian expected to follow the likes of Yuri Zhirkov and Igor Denisov out the door. Willian has accrued an average rating of 7.93 in the Russian Premier League thus far; only Aras Özbiliz (8.35) and Danny (8.05) have scored higher; an impressive start to the campaign.
No player in the Russian Premier League has executed more key passes (16) than Willian this season, while his 17 successful dribbles is another league high. With a 68% success rate - having attempted to run past the opposition on 25 occasions this season - his ability to run with the ball is obvious.
His creativity is evident - he has set up 3 of Anzhi's meagre total of 4 league goals this season - and judging from Spurs’ performance pushing forward on Sunday, his presence would be a welcome asset to the club for the upcoming campaign.
Adding a further option to a side aiming to break the top 4, the pairing would significantly strengthen Spurs in a summer that continues to excite and astound the fans. While it remains to be seen whether either, or both, will arrive at White Hart Lane during the transfer window, it’s undeniable that Lamela or Willian would add a further innovative threat to the first team.