Ramiro Funes Mori is targeting a first-team return “as soon as possible” after completing his “long journey” back from injury by playing 45 minutes in Everton Under-23s defeat at Arsenal.
The defender returned to action for the first time in more than 10 months on Monday night since suffering a torn meniscus in his knee back in March while playing for Argentina against Bolivia.
The 26-year-old has been training with the first team for the past fortnight and stepped up his rehabilitation by playing the first half in the Under-23s’ 4-0 Premier League 2 loss to the Gunners.
Funes Mori said he always knew he “would beat this tough injury”, and after confirming he felt good following his welcome taste of match action, the centre-back is eyeing a return to Sam Allardyce’s squad.
“I am very happy to be back on the pitch,” the 2015 signing from River Plate told evertonfc.com. “It has been a long journey and a long time since I played.
“I feel good. The match was intense. Arsenal have a good side. It was disappointing to lose the game but, personally, I feel happy, I feel good – and even better about my fitness. So, hopefully I can be back with the first team as soon as possible.
“It has been ages since I last played. I had a really tough injury but I think I have recovered well and I am looking forward to playing in the first team.
“I felt good. The tempo was good, even though the Under-23s is not as intense as the first team. I did not feel anything in my knee and I am so happy to be back.”
Funes Mori suffered his knee injury on international duty just a week after Seamus Coleman broke his leg while playing for Republic of Ireland against Wales in Dublin.
The right-back made his first-team comeback last week with a fine display in the Blues’ 2-1 Premier League victory over Leicester City at Goodison Park.
Funes Mori revealed the Irishman – along with Yannick Bolasie, who himself returned from a long-term knee injury in December – have provided inspiration to get back out on the pitch again – as the centre-back vowed to “give it a good go” when he follows suit.
“My recovery has been a long process but I knew I would beat this tough injury,” added the Argentina international, who also hopes to make his national side’s World Cup squad for this summer’s tournament in Russia.
“I have had to take it step by step. I started training with the first team two weeks ago. Now I have had my first 45 minutes and, hopefully, I can get back with the first team.
“Seamus has helped me, of course. He deserved it (his comeback) as he was a long time injured. But everyone has had a chance. Seamus and Bolasie.
“It is an inspiration for me. I will have my chance and when I get it I have to give it a good go.
“That was my first 45 minutes, so the manager will now decide when I can get in the first team. But I am feeling good and ready to come back.
“Of course, it has been a while. You do not forget how to play football but I just need to get used to the tempo and atmosphere of the matches again.”