Everton are expected to bolster their defensive options shortly with the purchase of Ramiro Funes Mori from River Plate. The centre-back was present during Sunday's 2-0 home defeat to Man City and Roberto Martinez has confirmed that a deal is close.
Funes Mori was born in Mendoza, Argentina, but moved with his family to Dallas in the United States at the age of 10. He and his twin brother Rogelio -- currently of Monterrey in Mexico -- were stars of their junior-high and high-school teams, and were both accepted into the television reality show Sueno MLS, whose prize was a place in the youth ranks of an MLS club, in 2008. It was Rogelio who won the competition, but Ramiro joined him at FC Dallas.
Neither of them were tied down to a contract and they returned to their homeland when River Plate expressed interest in taking them on trial at the start of 2009. They impressed and were both signed up shortly thereafter. Rogelio was the first to make his debut, but after four seasons of inconsistent performances and profligate finishing there were few tears shed when he refused to sign a new contract and departed at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Ramiro also came close to leaving, before eventually signing a three-year deal. He initially suffered through association with his misfiring sibling, but he got supporters on side by heading home the decisive goal in a 2-1 win away to bitter rivals Boca Juniors in March 2014. He has since gone from strength to strength as an ever-present in the side that added to their 2014 Copa Sudamericana success by recently winning the Copa Libertadores.
The 24-year-old was rewarded for his club displays with his first start for the national team in the friendly win over El Salvador in March. He made the 30-man preliminary squad for the Copa America but was not included in Gerardo Martino's final group. He has, however, been called up once more for next month's friendlies against Bolivia and Mexico. Martino recently called him "part of the future of the national team," in an interview with ESPN Radio.
Funes Mori is an aggressive and self-confident centre-back who has grown significantly in stature over the last 18 months. He is not the most cultured defender, but his strength and persistence have seen him become a somewhat emblematic figure for a River Plate side whose recent successes have been built on solid organisation and a strong work ethic.
- good in the air
- strong and committed
- prone to lapses in concentration
- slow on the half-turn
- reckless into the tackle at times
Tackling: Strong into the tackle but has a tendency to mistime at least one or two per match. Needlessly aggressive at times. For example, he was sent off for a two-footed scissor challenge in the league draw with Boca Juniors last year, and he was fortunate not to be receive another red card for a kick to the stomach of Pablo Perez against the same opponents in the first leg of their Copa Libertadores round-of-16 encounter in May.
Marking: Relatively solid in his marking duties, although lapses in concentration can allow opponents to get a march on him. At his best when defending on the front foot, where he can put his physical qualities to good use. Struggles against skilful forwards, with his wooden gait and slowness on the half-turn regularly seeing him lose out.
Heading: It is unsurprising that he wins the majority (almost two-thirds) of his aerial duels given that he is solidly built and relatively tall (6-foot-1). Strong at clearing high balls into the penalty area. Also provides an aerial threat from set-pieces, with four of his six goals over the last year, including the third goal in the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final against Tigres, having come from headers from inside the area.
Close control: His first touch is inconsistent and his lack of top-quality technical attributes is further highlighted when he plays in wet or otherwise adverse conditions. Decent in dribbling forward out of defence, although there it is a fusion of his strength and solid control that sees him advance. Relatively comfortable using either foot in possession.
Passing: Confident in stepping forward out of defence with the ball at his feet, although the quality of his subsequent distribution is highly inconsistent. His overall passing completion rate of 74 percent over the last year or so is relatively solid for a centre-back but his accuracy levels drop off dramatically against higher quality opposition. He completed just 31 percent of his 26 attempted passes in the first leg of the Libertadores final against Tigres.
Positioning: Quite aggressive in his defensive positioning at times, with his partner having to drop back to cover in behind. Rarely forced to rely on his reading of his game. Generally positions himself well to clear crosses into the area. Shows solid pace when getting across on the cover.
Crossing: Doesn't usually get forward into crossing positions from centre-back but was largely employed at left-back during his debut year in the second division back in 2011-12 and has been used there from time-to-time since. Capable of getting good whip and pace onto his crosses when he does advance into the final third.
Finishing: As noted above, he offers a potent aerial threat inside the penalty area from set-pieces. Also generates good power when striking the ball from distance, and fancies himself as a bit of a long-range free-kick expert. While the outcome is occasionally spectacular, most of his efforts fail to seriously trouble the goalkeeper.
What The Experts Say
ESPN FC columnist Tim Vickery: "I don't rate him at all. I don't think he is quick enough, strong enough or has enough quality [for the Premier League]. I fear that he would be badly exposed. Not one for me, although I would love to be wrong."
Hearing Everton have met Funes Mori's release clause of $5.5m USD. Had a great year but worry he'd struggle in PL.
- Rupert Fryer (@Rupert_Fryer) August 18, 2015
Funes Mori will join Everton on the back of the most successful period of his career to date. He has developed significantly over the last 18 months, and particularly so in the year since Marcelo Gallardo's appointment as head coach. He was an ever-present in a side that conceded just twice in eight knockout round matches on route to winning this year's Copa Libertadores.
It is, however, unlikely that he will be able to transfer his recent successes in South America over to the Premier League. He will be forced to spend more time defending further from his own goal, which will highlight his lack of agility; his concentration errors will be more readily punished in a higher-quality league; and his aggressive, occasionally reckless, style of defending will be met with more fouls and cards than it was on his home continent.
The 24-year-old does provide Everton with the experienced back-up they required at centre-back, and with time to adapt he could potentially become a semi-reliable option when called upon. But in truth, the time and effort of Martinez and his staff would be put to better use in focusing on the development of the promising Brendan Galloway and Tyias Browning than in attempting to mould Funes Mori into a competent Premier League defender.