The Premier League is a Pandora’s box. Each season there is a surprise on its calendar to show why it is classified as the best league in the world. One of its many virtues is the competitiveness of the teams, beyond the proper names and the pounds sterling.
The great revelation of this first semester of competition is West Ham, which fights inch by inch with the powerful of English football and is, neither more nor less, than in the Champions League area.
In an exclusive interview for 90min, we spoke with Manuel Lanzini, one of the figures of the London team, who comes from beating Klopp’s Liverpool on the last match by 3 to 2. The Argentine reviewed the milestones of his career as a professional, on the day to day in West Ham, the passage through Brazilian football being a young project and the dream of returning to the Argentine team.
Lanzini arrived at the ‘Hammers’ in mid-2015 from Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates as a loan with a purchase option. During his first months, the performances were so good that the London club quickly decided to buy his chip for 12 million euros, with a contract for four seasons and with the possibility of extending it for two more.
It is your seventh season in the Premier League. What is the secret to staying in the best league in the world?
It is a very long way. I think that work, a good predisposition and a high level help one to be loved and happy. That makes it easier for him to be in one of the best leagues in the world for so long.
Do you feel that you are at your best level since that injury in 2018? West Ham fans look very happy with you …
Since I came back from the injury I am in my best moment, I am returning to the level of that time. It took time due to the injury, I have had ups and downs but I am maintaining a level that I was looking for and luckily I was able to find it.
Did you imagine that West Ham would be fighting at this point in the Premier season against the ‘Big Six’ teams?
When a season starts one gets excited, gets ready, the truth is that last year we did a barbaric campaign. We knew we had the potential because we have a very good squad, with many young people and experienced people who are very good for the team. That makes one have the illusion.
When this year began, coming from the previous one, we did well, seeing how we carried out the preseason, we played the games and everything, we were very excited. Luckily we are performing this way.
Your level is accompanied by the performance of various colleagues. What did the arrival of Kurt Zouma mean to the team?
It is a leap in quality. He is a player with a lot of experience, not only him, but all the reinforcements that came also gave the team a lot of quality. That is what happens, when the team is doing well, all the players want to come here. Today West Ham is one of the most highly regarded and valued teams, and that is good because it makes you compete and not relax at any time.
The first three seasons, until 2018, Lanzini had very high numbers from the performance, so much so that he played almost every game and a high effectiveness rate for his position. These statistics led him to be in the sights of Jorge Sampaoli, coach of the Argentine team for a year, who had him on the radar of the albiceleste and was even part of the list of 23 players to travel to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. One of the training sessions in the national team, six days after the start of the competition, the Argentine suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, which marginalized him from the World Cup dream.
After his recovery, he again had selection chances with Lionel Scaloni, current Argentina coach, who summoned him for that generational renewal that the national team had requested for a long time. In turn, he was part of the preliminary list for the Copa América 2019, but was finally discarded and it was difficult for him to be part of a summoned list again.
How do you see the Scaloni team? Do you like the way of playing ‘La Scaloneta’?
Yes, I see the national team very well, in fact they were champion of the America’s Cup and they are doing a great job in the qualifying rounds. I think there is a barbaric group of guys, Messi adapted to all that process and in the best way with a lot of changes. They are on a very good path and hopefully they can continue so there is a little bit left for the World Cup.
Would you like to wear the albiceleste again?
Yes, I `d love to. I work every day at the club to be at a high level and then to be able to return to the National Team. It is the most beautiful thing to be able to represent your country, I hope I can come back soon and be able to show that I can be there.
Lanzini began his career in the inferiors of River, a club of which he is a confessed fan. Since he was little, his gifts led him to quickly wear the ’10’ for his creative quality. His debut took place in 2010, a year before the fateful demotion of the ‘Millionaire’ to the National B (today First National).
After the loss of category, the River leadership made the decision to transfer it to Fluminense to take filming, in a transaction for 400 thousand dollars and a purchase option of 15 million.
After a year on loan at ‘Flu’, the offensive midfielder had to return to Núñez’s club and things would improve for him. Since his return, he began to have more filming in the team, which had already returned to the First Division and the goals did not take long to arrive. Although with Matías Almeya as coach it would be difficult for him to earn a starting position, the arrival of Ramón Díaz at the end of 2012 was his change of course at the club.
Not only did he start to have ownership, but the goals were not long in coming. In the 2013 Final Tournament, Lanzini scored the fastest goal in superclassic history, at 43 seconds at La Bombonera. That day the game would end 1 to 1, but with a great performance from the midfielder. He also scored again in the 2014 Final Tournament for the 2 to 1 victory against ‘Xeneize’, in which River ended up consecrating himself with Ramón Díaz and it would be the beginning of the golden era for the ‘Millionaire’, who later persisted with Marcelo Gallant.
You had to make your debut with Ángel Cappa, but you also lived through the most difficult period in River’s history, which was relegation. Do you think that at that age you were prepared for this situation?
It is difficult to answer because you feel prepared, you wait for that moment and sometimes when you are young you do not realize the dimensions. At that moment when I debuted I felt that it was all joy, it was what I loved the most and the club was experiencing another situation. The best thing is to take the boys little by little, obviously today River lives another reality and it is much easier to enter a team that has already reconciled with an orderly institution, that all you have to think about is playing. Apart from the coach that River has, who I think is one of the best in this process. He has taken out many juveniles and has taken them in the best possible way. At the time it was my turn, that situation was my turn, I was happy, I assumed responsibility without falling into the reality of what was happening, but within me it was all happiness.
I suspect it would have been easier to debut at this time, right?
The truth is, heh.
You had to go to Fluminense when you were only 18 years old. What did the experience of playing in Brazilian soccer mean being Argentine? Was it the right decision to mature in football?
As an experience it was barbaric, in terms of what I experienced, the city, the people who treated me very well, at the club as well. I rubbed shoulders with very great players that Fluminense had at that time: Deco, Fred, Rafael Sóbis, Thiago Neves, a lot of players that when you’re a kid you learn a lot of things. On that side it was great. I made that decision with my family because I believed that it was the best thing for my career and what I needed at that time and it was.
You found maturity in the number ’10’ shirt that you wore during all the inferiors in River, also in the First and now in West Ham. What references with that number did you like?
The fact that I grew up playing as a hitch is a reference to having to use that number. In the lower he used it for being the most creative player. It had the reference of Pablo Aimar, of Ariel Ortega. It’s a number that I always liked and whenever I go to a club the first thing I look at is whether the ’10’ is available, if it’s not there, nothing happens, but I love it.
Throughout your career you played several classics: River-Boca, Fluminense-Flamengo, West Ham-Tottenham. You also had to score goals. What does it mean to score a goal in one of those games?
The classics always have a plus compared to the other games, not only for the day of the game, but for the previous one as well. A River vs. Boca is the most I have experienced as a fan and as a player. You start talking three weeks before, everyone is watching you, not only the club fans, the world is waiting for that match. Being able to play it and enjoy it on the court, more so scoring a goal, is a sensational sensation.
I imagine what it must be for you who are also a River fan …
Needless to say, triple!
What dreams do you have in your career?
My first dream would be to be able to play in the World Cup again and then continue to grow as a person and as a footballer.
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