For he’s a reinvigorated man now.
Indeed, the Buenos-Aires born attacker, who joined us from Italian giants Roma in 2013, has undergone quite a transformation under the tutelage of fellow countryman Mauricio Pochettino and last season established himself as a key member of our side.
His goal on the final day of 2015-16 – the only positive from an otherwise forgettable day at Newcastle – took his tally to 11 goals from 44 appearances in all competitions and he followed that up by playing in every game for Argentina as they made it all the way to the Copa America Final in June, only to lose on penalties to reigning champions Chile.
Appearances are one thing, but performances are another and Erik, who started out in his homeland with River Plate before heading to Italy in 2011, has certainly caught the eye with his over the last 12 months. He’s reinvented himself. He’s lean, he’s added a layer of steel to his attacking instinct and he’s now someone equally as reliable at chasing the ball down and winning possession as he is at going forward.
“I think he’s probably made one of the most amounts of challenges in the Premier League for a winger,” said team-mate Kyle Walker at the end of last term. “I hope he wouldn’t mind me saying it but he probably had a few difficult months when he first came in here, but I think he’s proved the doubters wrong,” added the right-back.
That notion is one that Erik agrees with. Upon his return from his summer break last week, the 24-year-old – now confident enough to sit down for a feature length Spurs TV interview in English – opened up about his journey at the Club to date and the manner in which he’s moved on from his early difficulties to make a real impact as part of our collective cause.
“It was difficult for me in the first year,” he said. “I was injured for a long time but that can happen, it’s football. Always my mind was in Tottenham and I knew that my moment would arrive. I was confident in myself, always. This is very important, I always trusted in myself and working hard every day was the solution.”
And on the newer, more aggressive facets of his game, Erik acknowledged them by saying: “Yes, but this is the way that the team plays. We fight for everything for the team, we all want the same thing and that is to win.
“I think the team has helped me a lot, I have helped the team also. We helped each other last season and all together we pushed in the same way. All we want to do is bring Tottenham up a level and we are trying to do that.”
Erik’s progress at club level was reflected on the international stage over the summer as he was handed a significant amount of game time at the centennial Copa America tournament in the United States and he believes those opportunities can also benefit him going forward.
“To play at the Copa America was incredible,” he said. “I think playing for the national team makes me strong and the experience can make me better.
“We had a great tournament but at the end we lost the Final. We were unlucky but this is football. They (Chile) played well but I think we deserved to win. We created a lot of chances but at the end, that’s football.”
Erik’s disappointment at losing a major tournament final was, of course, shared by club team-mate Hugo Lloris this summer. Our talismanic goalkeeper captained France all the way to the Final of Euro 2016 on his home turf, only to suffer a 1-0 extra-time defeat to Portugal. Erik, who confirmed he “saw many games, our players especially” throughout the Euros from across the Atlantic, said he felt Hugo’s pain.
“I texted him after the Final,” he revealed. “He was very disappointed but he knows that it’s football and it can happen. He did very well and this is the most important thing.”
Following the conclusion of that competition, Erik enjoyed a few weeks’ break and took to social media to share some of his holiday snaps. Among the photos he posted was a group shot that included some familiar faces in Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele – the duo having recently represented Belgium at the Euros.
“I saw them on holiday in Ibiza,” confirmed Erik. “We enjoyed a little bit of time off so it was good for me. Every moment that I enjoy is good.” Ex-Spur Roberto Soldado also appeared in one of Erik’s posts and our attacking midfielder relayed: “He is good, he’s enjoying the holidays and it was good to see him.”
Now very much back in the groove and putting in the hours on the Hotspur Way training pitches in preparation for what he hopes will be another memorable campaign, Erik concluded by lifting the lid on what his favourite part of pre-season training is: “When we work with the ball for me is the best, when we play mini-games and work on possession. I like that.”