Derby day is circled in the calendars of football fans everywhere.
New chapters in historic rivalries mean local clashes are more eagerly awaited than any other fixture and demands players to tap into their reserves of intensity.
Erik Lamela, veteran of three of football’s fiercest derbies, never disappoints.
Speaking as he unveiled a pair of new custom boots which he will be wearing this weekend to celebrate the launch of EA’s latest title, Anthem, the Spurs midfielder revealed the north London derby is the fixture he looks forward to more than any other.
“For me, it’s the most special game to play in,” he said.
“I’ve been here a lot of seasons so I’ve become a Spurs man and every time I play Arsenal, I want to win!”
It’s not just on these shores where Lamela has experienced the pressure cooker environment of a massive derby.
During his days with boyhood club River Plate, the Argentinian would regularly come up against Boca Juniors in the world-famous Superclasico.
The ill-feeling between the two sets of supporters often manifests itself in unsavoury crowd trouble.
Most recently, the second leg of the 2018 Copa Libertadores final was moved to Spain after the Boca bus was attacked by River fans, resulting in a suspended fixture.
However, Lamela spoke positively of the Superclasico, praising the passion of the supporters.
“The derbies in Argentina were so unbelievable,” he recalled. “And the fans are amazing.
“River and Boca are the two biggest clubs in the country and everyone watches the derby on TV.
“The week before, it’s all that the people talk about. They love football, they love their clubs, and they have a lot of passion for the derbies.”
Lamela reflected fondly on his inaugural encounter with Boca: “I really enjoyed my first derby!
“I was a bit nervous to play this game but once it started it was fantastic. All the fans want to win and that makes all the players want to play and win as well.”
Lamela refused to rule out a return to River at the end of his career, but insisted his focus remains on Spurs for now.
“I spent a lot of years there and my family and friends support the team so there’s a motivation for me to go back.
“But for now I’m only thinking about Spurs and this season.”
After leaving River in 2011, Lamela joined Roma where his experiences of impassioned rivalries served him well.
Derby Capitolino between Roma and Lazio is one of the biggest intra-city derbies in European football.
Lamela scored once in his five meetings against the Giallorossi’s bitter rivals and has fond memories of the Rome classics.
“It’s a fantastic derby to play because in Rome there are only two teams, Roma and Lazio,” he said.
“If you win or lose it changes absolutely everything. When you’re in the city you can always find Roma or Lazio supporters.
“It’s a big, big game and it means everything to the people in Rome.”
Lamela’s transfer to Spurs in 2013 allowed him to complete a unique hat-trick of derbies.
The rivalry between north London’s two great rivals was evident to him from the get-go.
“Nobody had to tell me, I can see it,” he said.
“I know these types of games are very important to win, not just for the team to get the points, but also for all the people.
“Every time that I play Arsenal I want to win, more than any other game.”
When quizzed on the differences between his derby experiences, Lamela insisted each game is unique for its own reasons.
“They are all different but it’s difficult for me to really explain why,” he confessed.
“All three are fantastic and I really enjoying playing these types of games. Personally for me they are the best games to play in.”
Strong leadership is crucial in derby matches and Lamela is fortunate enough to have gone into battle with some notable captains.
Francesco Totti, Hugo Lloris and Lionel Messi have all worn the armband as the Argentinian’s team-mate.
“All three of them are very good captains,” he said. “They are all different personalities.”
“One thing they all share is that when you step out onto the pitch they make every player feel like they are the captain too.
“They are all big leaders and help to push the team on.”
Messi, for all of his quality, is a player who hasn’t always been considered a strong leader.
Fans tend to define the five-time Ballon d’Or winner as someone who leads by example on the pitch, rather than motivating through words.
But Lamela insists this is far from the case.
“It’s true he’s a very quiet person off the pitch but before every game he always likes to talk,” he revealed.
“He is very good at motivating all the players in the dressing room and he’s a fantastic captain.”
It’s possible that playing for three teams with clearly defined rivalries help mould Lamela into the player he is today.
Seldom do you find attack-minded players who bring such an intensity as the 27-year-old and his derby experiences could have encouraged that.
Lamela is aware that his enthusiasm can overflow into misdemeanours on the pitch, but insists this is just his style and never done with malice.
“I am so motivated on the pitch and sometimes I lose my head a bit, but it’s part of football,” he said.
“I don’t do it deliberately and I don’t have bad intentions with anyone, but sometimes I’m a little bit like this.
“I live like this and even in training I like to play like this!”
Lamela was speaking to Dream Team around the launch of EA’s latest title, Anthem.
The Argentinian has been selected as the ‘Ranger’ Javelin on Anthem, the most versatile of all the Javelins with strong offensive and defensive capabilities.
Lamela believes this is a fair reflection of his on-pitch characteristics because he’s willing to track back and defend when needed.
“Of course I enjoy attacking more, but in some games you have to help your team to defend and I’m happy to do it!”
Erik Lamela’s bespoke boot is inspired by the ‘Ranger’ Javelin suit featured in EA’s latest title, Anthem. Anthem is out now on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. To get your copy, head to – https://www.ea.com/en-gb/games/anthem.
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