After Erik Lamela scored just two Premier League goals in his first 42 games for Tottenham, the calls for the club to cut their losses on the £25m forward and shove him out the door were deafening.
This season, the Argentine has netted just three times in the league, yet nobody is suggesting he be sold this summer. That’s because the 24-year-old has moulded himself into a key cog in Mauricio Pochettino’s game plan.
Watching Lamela play is like settling in for a 90-minute, live-action version of the Tasmanian Devil cartoon. He is a whirring buzz of activity as he hunts down the ball, intent on either winning it back and countering, or committing a foul that will disrupt the opponents’ rhythm.
He hasn’t yet found the scoring burst that saw him bag 15 Serie A goals for Roma in his departing campaign, but his haul of six in six for the Lilywhites in this year’s Europa League suggests he’s working up to an explosive season. Either way, his contribution to the cause goes beyond net bulging.
The development of Lamela has been one of many factors in Spurs’ emergence as title contenders under Pochettino this season. But just imagine their potential should they add strength and depth to their squad, by acquiring a Lamela clone.
Should the rumours suggesting the north Londoners are in pursuit of Sassuolo star Domenico Berardi prove true, then that’s exactly what they would be doing.
The Italian has been a phenomenal success for the Neroverdi since making his senior debut in Serie B four years ago. His rising stock has seen him become co-owned by Juventus and attract attention from some of Europe’s finest outfits.
But, if he’s toying with the idea of leaving his boyhood club, who purchased him outright from the Old Lady at the start of the season, few sides offer him a glove-like fit for his game than Spurs.
Just like Lamela, Berardi operates from the right flank, although he can be considered anything but a conventional, touchline-hugging winger.
The 21-year-old tends to cut in on his left foot, becoming an advanced playmaker in central positions to lay on chances for his teammates. He did that to great effect last season when registering 10 league assists.
His profile as a creative wide forward rather than a direct-running one, like Arjen Robben, is further highlighted in his key passes and successful dribbles stats.
In his last three Serie A campaigns, Berardi has averaged 1.6 key passes per 90 minutes and just 1.3 successful dribbles.
Those figures are a touch short of Lamela’s, who has 2.2 key passes per 90 and 2.1 successful dribbles in the last three league campaigns, but Berardi provides a greater goal threat.
Consistent tallies of 11, 16 and 15 strikes across the last three completed seasons – the last two coming in the Italian top flight – paint Berardi as a better, and more consistent scorer than Lamela.
He possesses two potent weapons in attack; the ability to time a run into the box to meet crosses (exemplified by the first video below) and intelligent movement in the area between full-back and centre-half to expose space behind the defence (as shown in the second).
However, as we’ve already mentioned, playing for Pochettino requires more than just the glory of offensive production and in defence, Berardi is equally as impressive.
Again using his last three Serie A seasons, including this one, as a sample, the young Sassuolo star has averaged 1.6 tackles per 90 minutes. Comparing that to Lamela’s averages from his three Premier League campaigns appears favourable.
The Spurs forward has averaged more tackles per 90, at 3.0, but is pretty much among the gold standard for defensive pests in an attacking position. Considering Berardi is three years Lamela’s junior and would likely improve under Pochettino’s tutelage, his numbers shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The pair’s interception stats are much more closely aligned. Lamela averages 1.5 per 90 minutes, while Berardi registers 1.1. Those numbers are an encouraging sign of the Italian’s ability to read a game at a young age, a skill you would again expect to improve under the Spurs boss.
With Lamela having such an impact on Spurs’ season and Berardi appearing to be a developing mirror image, the Lilywhites would be crazy not to consider making a move this summer to enhance their squad.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.