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Farewell, Erik Lamela

Farewell, Erik Lamela

The Tottenham Hotspur number 11 is dead; long live the Tottenham Hotspur number 11.

Last week saw Erik Lamela depart Tottenham Hotspur after nearly eight years. The Argentinian has joined Sevilla, with Bryan Gil moving in the opposite direction. Will they do better this season? You can have your say at Sportsbet Clubhouse.

Lamela will wear 17 for his new club, while Gil takes over the number 11 shirt he vacated – the 20-year-old was Sevilla’s number 29 last season while he wore 25 on loan at Eibar.

As it was a swap deal, the number changeover happened instantaneously – interestingly, when Lamela arrived, it was just before his predecessor, Gareth Bale had left, meaning that he wore 33 on his Premier League debut against Arsenal at the end of August in the 2013-14 season. When the Welsh star finally got his move to Real Madrid, Lamela was able to switch to 11.

However, Uefa’s rules meant that, as Bale had already been listed as Tottenham’s number 11, no other player was allowed to wear it for them in Europe that season and so Lamela continued to wear 33 in the Europa League. Vlad Chiriches (6 in league, 12 in Europe) and Lewis Holtby (23 in league, 14 in Europe) also had dual numbers for Spurs that season.

A mercurial player during his time at White Hart Lane and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Lamela could excite and exasperate, with his best and worst illustrated by the 2-1 defeat to Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on March 14.

An early sub for the injured Heung-Min Son, Lamela – always keener to use his left foot – scored a wonderful rabona goal to put Spurs ahead, one which would go on to win the Goal of the Season Award. However, it was his only league goal of the campaign and he was sent off in the second half and Arsenal came back to win the match.

A week before that match, when Tottenham hosted Crystal Palace, Lamela was also named as a substitute and any squad numbers enthusiast will have keenly felt his absence as it prevented Spurs from bridging a gap of more than 22 years.

Since Charlton Athletic’s second game of the 1998-99 season, the only instances of teams starting Premier League games with players numbered 1-11 were when Manchester United (2008) and West Bromwich Albion (2015) wore special commemorative kits, honouring the victims of the Munich air disaster and Jeff Astle respectively. Tottenham came agonisingly close against Palace – they had 1-10 but, rather than Lamela, manager José Mourinho opted for Lucas Moura.

Lamela did come on as a sub, but for Gareth Bale rather than Moura, at the same time that Moussa Sissoko replaced Harry Winks.

At least Gil has taken a ‘first 11’ number, too – though new manager Nuno Espirito Santo didn’t appear too preoccupied with correct numbering while at Wolverhampton Wanderers, so we may have to wait a while longer for Spurs to come near a 1-11 again.

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Farewell, Erik Lamela