Manuel Lanzini backing former side River Plate against Boca Juniors in

The intense rivalry between River Plate and Boca Juniors is like nothing else on the planet – and few players understand it better than West Ham star Manuel Lanzini.

For the first time in history the Argentinian teams clash in a Copa Libertadores final and the midfielder has experienced the pressure first hand.

A River player for 12 years, Lanzini’s first goal against Boca was the fastest ever in a Superclasico, at 43 seconds in 2013.

“I did not expect it, I did not know what to do or what to feel,” he said.

“There were 10,000 people supporting River Plate and the rest of Boca’s stadium was silent. What I heard from the away fans was incredible. Scoring in the Superclasico is crazy.”

Manuel Lanzini in action for River Plate
(Image: LatinContent/Getty Images)

Known for their ultra fans, the ‘Barra Bravas’, River and Boca supporters offer an atmosphere that starts weeks before the game.

He recalled: “Two weeks before the Superclasico people start talking about it, about the teams, about who is going to win and they don’t talk about the next game.

“When you are waiting in the tunnel you can hear the crowd. Then you see everything, you see the spectacle of the fans.

“They put on a show when they raise their flags, set off flares and throw confetti. When you step on to the pitch and see what they are doing, it’s beautiful, it gives you goosebumps.”

River Plate take on Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores final
(Image: SIPA USA/PA Images)

Lanzini made the permanent move to West Ham in 2016 and the atmosphere in London differs dramatically to that in Buenos Aires.

“Here the supporters are fanatical but they always have respect. There the fanaticism translates to near madness.”

Playing for River was a childhood dream realised for Lanzini and, had it not been for his loyalties, he may have turned out for their bitter rivals.

He said: “I am a River supporter, I have played there since the age of nine.

“My dad tells me an anecdote of when Ramon Maddoni approached my family.”

Carlos Tevez will lead the line for Boca Juniors
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)

A legendary Boca scout, Maddoni is best known for discovering Carlos Tevez, Esteban Cambiasso and Juan Pablo Sorin.

“I was only seven but I said no. I had this mentality. I knew what I wanted and I am pleased things turned out as they have done today,” added Lanzini.

“I always dreamt to play for River, I never viewed them as a stepping stone.”

Lanzini, recovering from a knee injury, will be cheering on old side River Plate when they make the trip to La Bombonera for the first leg of the final on Saturday.