In a two year spell at Tottenham, Franco Baldini did much to undermine the role of director of football.
The job already had its fair share of detractors before the Italian joined Andre Villas-Boas’ staff in 2013 but when the £90 million Real Madrid paid for Gareth Bale was squandered, the dye was cast.
Paulinho, Vlad Chiriches and Roberto Soldado all proved themselves to be resounding flops, but one transfer in particular looked inspired.
Erik Lamela had been the best player in Italy since joining Roma from River Plate in 2011.
The Argentine looked like a natural successor to the aging Francesco Totti, scoring 15 goals in his final season. Throughout Europe, his transfer was seen as a massive coup.
When it all goes wrong
The intervening years, however, have proven disastrous.
A back injury ruined Lamela’s debut season before it had a chance to get going, whilst a separate hip problem kept him sidelined for over a year.
His personal life has been rocked, too, with the death of his dog and a serious accident that left his brother paralysed doing much to distract his focus.
Nearly five years after joining the club, Spurs fans have still not seen the best of him, with his performance during the 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace roundly criticised.
After an ineffectual 66 minutes, he was withdrawn in favour of the faster, fitter Lucas Moura.
“It’s never easy to come back and perform in that way that he was before,” said Mauricio Pochettino on Lamela’s return from injury at the beginning of the month.
He was speaking after a 2-0 victory over Newport County had seen the Argentine make his return to the pitch but questions remain: does he have a future at the club?
Lamela’s contract is due to expire next summer but Tottenham have the option to extend his deal for a further two years. At present, it’s an option that they are yet to take.
They should. At 25, he is young enough to leave his injury woes behind him.
The support afforded to him by Pochettino when his personal life deteriorated has left a man eager to repay that faith and trust; Lamela’s performance in the recent 2-2 draw against Juventus spoke of a man fitter, more determined and hungry than ever.
Lamela also offers a vital alternative to Christian Eriksen. When the Dane tires, his club’s form tends to suffer.
Lamela has a similar skillset and an equitable work-rate. He might not be an automatic starter but he is a more-than-dependable utilityman.
Keep him keen
Before his injury, Lamela was a regular contributor of assists in a team that often relies on Eriksen’s creativity alone.
Pochettino addressed that deficiency by bringing Moura in in January but, with the Brazilian sure to adapt gradually to his new surroundings, Lamela importance is amplified.
Given Lamela's chronic injury history, it’s understandable that Spurs fans continue to have reservations about the Argentine.
The club would be hard pressed, however, to source a replacement who would offer a level of ability whilst also being content with a lesser first-team role.
If he can stay fit, Lamela may even go on to remind fans why his arrival was so hyped all those years ago.
What do you think? Should Pochettino do his utmost to keep Erik Lamela? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.