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Ramiro Funes Mori and Manuel Lanzini: Former River Plate team-mates excelling in England

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he River Plate youth academy is adjudged to be one of the best in world football, with the Argentine club being able to stand alongside the likes of Ajax and Barcelona as an institution to consistently breed future world beaters.

From Alfredo Di Stéfano to Daniel Passarella, Hernán Crespo to Javier Mascherano, the alumni of the Buenos Aires is wholeheartedly distinguished.

Two of the more recent graduates of the famous South American footballing church are yet to live up the reputations or success of their distinguished predecessors, but are starting to make a real impression in English football.

Signing Argentinian players has always been something of a risk for English clubs, with every Sergio Agüero or Carlos Tevez offset by a Mauro Boselli or Ricky Álvarez.

Despite this, both West Ham and Everton have opted to recruit from the Argentine market ahead of this season, with the supposed gamble certainly paying off.

Former River Plate team-mates Manuel Lanzini and Ramiro Funes Mori have made a favourable initial impression in the British game so far and despite the fact that it is still early days appear to have the weaponry to excel in the English top flight.

Lanzini is currently on loan at West Ham from Abu Dhabi outfit Al Jazira FC, but the way the South American winger has started it looks like only a matter of time before the Hammers make his switch permanent.

With the London outfit adding a host of new faces to Slaven Bilić’s squad over the off season, the 22-year-old’s arrival was treated with underwhelming response, with the excitement saved for the likes of Dimitri Payet and Alex Song.

However, in his five Premier League starts for the Boleyn Ground outfit so far, Lanzini has showcased skill, speed and delivered in the final third, contributing to the club’s progressive start to the new campaign.

Lanzini announced himself to the Hammers faithful and the rest of the English footballing fraternity with an immaculate first start for the club, which came against Liverpool at Anfield, scoring one and creating another in a fantastic display as the visitors recorded a shock 3-0 win.

Since then the South American has shown versatilely to play in a number of positions for Bilić’s men and is keeping a number of very able alternatives out of the West Ham starting XI.

A player that can make a difference in the final third, Lanzini looks set to continue to play a significant part in West Ham’s hopes this season, with it extremely likely that this loan campaign will not be his last in English football.

Ramiro Funes MoriMuch of the focus of the current Everton defence is based around the prodigious John Stones, but it may well be that Roberto Martínez has found a long-term central defensive partner for the England international in the form of Funes Mori.

The fact that the Toffees splashed out £9.5 million on the 24-year-old was significant enough in itself for a club of well-publicised stringent financial means, but there were also other reasons for reluctance to splurge on the Argentine.

Martínez has himself been burnt in the South American country’s market, with it he that brought the afore-mentioned big-money flop Boselli to Wigan, while few Everton fans will remember fellow Argentine striker Denis Stracqualursi with much fondness after his one goal in 20 games on Merseyside.

However, despite this, Funes Mori has settled into an Everton defence riddled with injuries with aplomb and looked decisive, assertive and assured since moving to England.

In the Merseyside derby at the weekend, both the 24-year-old and centre-half partner Phil Jagielka had barnstorming games and restricted Liverpool to very few opportunities.

Funes Mori has a confidence on the ball and reading of the game that defy his young age, while his physical attributes look ideal for the rough and tumble of Premier League football.

When Stones does return to availability it will be interesting to see just who Martínez picks at centre-half of his three excellent options, while the twice-capped Argentina international looks like an excellent addition and asset for the shrewd Goodison Park team.

Although it is still early days and the bitter British winter will test the pair’s desire and fortitude, both Lanzini and Funes Mori look like two more stellar additions to the list of venerable River Plate youth academy graduates.

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