Vertonghen’s excited to see what Spurs star Lamela can do in the Champions League
Jan Vertonghen says he is excited to see what Erik Lamela can do in the Champions League as Tottenham gear up for tomorrow’s opening group game against Monaco at Wembley.
Half of Lamela’s 18 goals for Spurs have come in Europe, and four of them came against Monaco in the Europa League group stage last season – including a hat-trick in December’s home fixture at White Hart Lane.
Vertonghen is now hoping for more of the same from his team-mate, having been impressed by the Argentine’s improvement since his arrival from Roma in 2013.
“He was new and he had to adapt to the Premier League,” said the Belgian defender. “I remember in the first season when he came I had a couple of injuries, and I was together with him.
“He wanted it so badly and he wanted to play so much that he pushed himself, and he might have pushed himself too much.
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“He’s been fully fit for two years now and he’s shown us how important he is. If he doesn’t play then we feel it and he’s a great addition for us.
“Lamela is an unbelievable player. If he doesn’t score goals he gives assists, and he works so hard for the team. He always does well in Europe so I can’t wait to see him in the Champions League.”
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Lamela has been the subject of various rumours during his time at Tottenham, hinting at a possible return to Italy.
But Vertonghen said: “I think he never wanted to go back. He’s a soldier and that’s why he fits so perfectly in this team. He works maybe the hardest of everyone and he’s mentally very strong.”
Lamela should be fresh and raring to go after being rested for most of Saturday’s 4-0 league win at Stoke, spending the first 55 minutes on the bench – and Vertonghen’s countryman Mousa Dembele is now available after missing the first four games of the season through suspension.
“Mousa is, for me, one of the best midfielders in the league,” said Vertonghen. “It’s a shame that he hasn’t been there at the start of the season - but if you see how Victor [Wanyama] did, and Eric Dier, and even Dele Alli when he had to drop back into a defensive midfield role, they’ve done brilliantly. It’s a perfect example of the strength of our squad.
“We’ve got loads of options and I think we need it for the Champions League. It’s going to be a very tough season and not everybody’s going to play 90 minutes every time. I think everyone will think about the team and everyone’s heading in the right direction.
“You could see the strength of our squad from who came off the bench [at Stoke] and who wasn’t even there - like Mousa or [Georges-Kevin] Nkoudou or Danny Rose, who weren’t even on the bench.”
The only question mark over Dembele might be his match fitness, but Vertonghen said: “Don’t worry about him, they’ll make sure he’s fit. He played 45 minutes with the national team so he’ll be ready.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs