Tottenham Hotspur legend Ricky Villa has suggested there is a real concern injury may force Erik Lamela to retire from football.
After an underwhelming start to life in English football, Lamela began to thrive under the management of his compatriot Mauricio Pochettino, enjoying two impressive campaigns before he was sidelined with a mysterious hip injury last October.
It has now been 11 months since the 25-year-old last played for the club, undergoing surgery during the summer with no indication as to when he will be able to return. His omission from Tottenham's Champions League squad would suggest a comeback is still some way off.
Villa, a World Cup winner with Argentina in 1978 and an FA Cup winner Spurs in 1981, shares the concern over his countryman, suggesting Tottenham are now worried about their player's long-term future in the game.
"There is concern to know if he will play again," Villa told AM950, as reported by Bola VIP. "In England they are worried about him, but, because of medicine today, I hope he can come back."
Lamela's last appearance for Spurs came as a as a second-half substitute in a 2-1 EFL Cup fourth-round defeat to Liverpool in October 2016. The former Roma winger has since undergone surgery on both hips, missing the club's pre-season tour, but did return to light training over the summer with a return date reportedly then pencilled in for October.
While he was not named in Tottenham's Champions League squad on Monday, the north London side can register him for the knockout stages of the competition in the New Year – providing they qualify from their group.
Lamela became Tottenham's most expensive signing when he signed from Roma for £35m (€38.2m) in 2013 – a record broken this summer following the arrival of Davinson Sanchez from Ajax – and has made 85 league appearances for the club to date, scoring eight goals.