Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori relished his return to Goodison as he eyes a first-team comeback after playing 90 minutes for the Under-23s on Monday night.
The Argentina international put in an assured performance on what was his 27th birthday as the young Blues saw off Swansea City 2-0 in Premier League 2.
It was the first time Funes Mori had played at the Grand Old Lady since featuring against Hull City on 18 March last year, with a knee injury suffered shortly after that game keeping him out of action until last month.
The centre-back made his long-awaited comeback for the Under-23s against Arsenal four weeks ago. And after coming through the full match against Swansea on Monday, he staked his claim for a place in Sam Allardyce's first-team squad for this weekend's Premier League visit of Brighton & Hove Albion.
“It felt good to play back in Goodison, to feel the pitch, the stands - I really miss it so I’m very happy,” Funes Mori told evertonfc.com.
“I’ve been training good these past weeks. Even though I wasn’t playing for the first team, I’ve been playing for the Under-23s to get the rhythm, get the tempo. I’m 100-per-cent fit to play and I’m ready for Saturday.”
Funes Mori impressed as the young Blues kept a clean sheet against the Swans, his experience shining through as he played alongside 17-year-old Con Ouzounidis in the heart of defence.
And the former River Plate man had words of praise for the Australian youth international, who netted the Blues’ second goal on the night.
“I think he’s got a really good future,” said Funes Mori. “The Under-23s are good lads and they are very good players. To be part of the Under-23s you have to show respect.
“I have to give my best for the respect of Unsy [boss David Unsworth] and all the staff, and do my best to show that I can play for the first team.“
Funes Mori’s confidence has also been boosted by a call-up by Argentina for their game against Italy at the Etihad Stadium on 23 March, as the defender eyes a place in their Word Cup squad.
“I’m very satisfied that the manager has called me even though I haven’t played for the first team,” he said. “But I’m fit, I’m ready to play. I’m feeling good – hopefully I get my chance and go on from there.”