Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori says mental strength has been key in his battle back from a serious knee injury.
The Argentina international has been sidelined since March 2017, but Sam Allardyce revealed last week that the centre-back could be set for a return to the first-team squad against Burnley on Saturday.
The 26-year-old returned to competitive action earlier this month when he was given a 45-minute runout for the Under-23s against Arsenal. And after joining up with Allardyce's squad for the recent training camp in Dubai, Funes Mori says he’s raring to go as the Blues eye a strong finish to the season.
The Toffees are just three points away from Burnley in seventh – and can go level with Sean Dyche’s men with victory at Turf Moor.
“Of course it’s difficult, being injured for a long time,” Funes Mori told evertontv. “It’s tough but I had support from my family and I’m very strong mentally.
“I’m very happy to be fully fit, and I’m looking forward to joining the team.”
Funes Mori is relishing the opportunity of proving his worth to Allardyce. The 2015 signing from River Plate has been particularly buoyed by the boss’ willingness to give first-team opportunities to Yannick Bolasie and Seamus Coleman once they were ready to return from long-term injuries.
“It’s difficult when you’re injured and a new manager comes in,” he said. “It’s tough because you want to show what you can give to the team and to the Club.
“But he knows every player, I think he has given opportunities to every injured player that’s come back so I am waiting for that opportunity also.”
The 19-times capped international admits he’s also got his sights set on a place in Argentina’s World Cup squad, but emphasised that forcing his way into the Everton team is his main priority.
He’ll be battling for a first-team spot with the likes of Michael Keane, skipper Phil Jagielka, Ashley Williams and Mason Holgate, who have all contributed to the side’s improved resilience under Allardyce.
“Of course I’m thinking about the World Cup but I’ll have to play for Everton in order to do that [play for Argentina],” Funes Mori said. “I’m just happy to have recovered from the injury but I need to be fit to prove that I can play.”