It already seems quite a long time ago now, but Erik Lamela could once have pulled off the nickname of being “the Thierry Henry of Serie A”.
Much like Henry made a habit at Arsenal of drifting inside from the left flank and curling an effort into the far corner with his right foot, Lamela was the master of doing the same at Roma, albeit from the opposite wing.
In the 2012/13 season at Roma, Lamela netted 15 times from his regular starting position on the right flank, using his impressive dribbling and spot of elegance to bamboozle opposing Italian defences.
Despite the future of Roma looking especially bright with Lamela sitting in the box seat once Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi hung up their boots, the Argentine forward was allowed to leave for Tottenham at the age of 21 for somewhere in the region of £30m.
Lamela’s first season at White Hart Lane was far from memorable with just a single assist to his name and even in the current campaign where Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen are flourishing in an attacking sense, he has set up five for teammates and netted one himself.
The problem Lamela has arguably had, especially this season, is that Eriksen is upstaging him in terms of creating opportunities for others, while Chadli is a bigger goal threat.
Meanwhile, his dribbling abilities have never really reached the standards from his time with Roma either.
What Lamela’s struggles also does is spread some doubt into the minds of other young talents in Serie A that moving to the Premier League too soon could be harmful towards their careers.
If the former Roma star was the young superstar of the Italian 2012/13 top-flight campaign, that mantle is now firmly sitting on the shoulders of Paulo Dybala this time around.
At the same age of 21, Dybala is well on track to potentially improving upon Lamela’s scoring exploits, as he has contributed 12 goals and seven assists for Palermo this season, with 10 Serie A matches still remaining.
Unsurprisingly this has drawn interest in his signature from all parts of Europe, with Arsenal leading the English charge, Juventus keen in Italy and Barcelona apparently inviting him to watch their Clasico victory over Real Madrid.
Palermo already seem fairly resigned to losing their star player at the end of this season, with his contract set to expire in the summer of 2016.
And with a history of selling players for substantial profit – Edinson Cavani, Javier Pastore, Andrea Barzagli and Amauri are a few examples – alongside a long list of suitors, don’t be surprised to see the bidding war end somewhere in the same ballpark as what Spurs paid for Lamela.
However, Lamela’s struggles are just one reason Arsenal look up against it in this race.
Dybala took time to adapt upon signing from Argentine second division club Instituto, flattering to deceive for the best part of two years before fulfilling his early promise this season.
With Arsenal already having the “world class” Olivier Giroud, in the words of Arsene Wenger, in their ranks, Dybala is far from guaranteed to waltz straight into a starting berth.
The lure of Barcelona and working with the likes of Lionel Messi won’t do the Gunners any favours either, while Juventus provide the opportunity to continue his development in Italy until ready for another big move abroad.
If Lamela’s example is anything to go by, Juventus are leading the queue to sign Dybala this summer, with Arsenal having their biggest rivals to thank for being positioned way back on the grid.
The betting has Juventus being Dybala’s club by the closing of the summer transfer window at 6/4, with Arsenal a distant 7/1.