The lowdown on potential Barcelona signing Yerry Mina
Yerry Mina looks set to complete his move from Palmeiras to Barcelona in the coming days, with a €12 million deal seemingly close to being agreed.
Barcelona have been tracking the defender for some time and had already put together a deal to bring him across in the summer. But they moved to bring the transfer forward after Javier Mascherano made clear his desire to seek regular first-team football (in China) in the build-up to the World Cup.
If rumours that Philippe Coutinho is also close to a move to the Camp Nou from Liverpool are true, Mina won’t be the most high-profile of the club’s arrivals this month, but he is a player who certainly has the capability to develop into a very competent performer in Europe.
Mina was born and grew up in the town of Guachene in the south west of Colombia. His family were poor, and so he chipped in by working as a porter, carrying produce to and from shops and the local market.
From an early age, he viewed football as his most viable means of improving his situation. His father, Jose Eulises, had been a goalkeeper for Millonarios and Santa Fe, among others, but he advised his son against following in his footsteps, saying that it was a position of solitude and suffering. He told him he would be better off outfield.
Mina was a regular fixture at the pitches of the Guachene sports centre. Whether barefoot or in trainers, he and his friends would play for hours at a time, betting soft drinks on the outcomes of their matches. He soon caught the attention of local scouts and had trials at both America and Deportivo Cali before eventually ending up at Deportivo Pasto.
A career on the up
Mina made his debut for Deportivo Pasto in March 2013, at 19 years old. He began in midfield but coach Flabio Torres quickly realised that his towering frame (1.95cm) was better suited to a defensive role. A series of standout performances followed and a move to Santa Fe, one of Colombia’s biggest clubs, was arranged for in 2014.
In his two and a half years there, a period that yielded a Colombian league title and success in the Copa Sudamericana - the continent’s Europa League equivalent - Mina established himself as one of the most promising defensive prospects in South America. Tall and strong yet also quick and agile, he was able to dominate most opponents. In possession, he displayed increasing confidence in stepping forward and picking out options upfield.
Two starts for the Colombian Under-23 side who defeated the United States to qualify for the 2016 Olympics were followed by his full national team debut at the Copa America Centenario that summer. Then came a move to Brazil with Palmeiras, with whom he won the 2016 league title. Mina was named the competition’s outstanding defender.
There is, though, a big difference between defending in largely deeper areas in the relatively slow-paced Brazilian league and doing so in Europe, especially at a club like Barcelona where most of that defending will be done much higher up the pitch and with more immediately at stake if a mistake is made.
Mina certainly has the right physical profile, but it is certain to take him some time to adapt to the tactical and positional demands of his role in Europe.
In possession, he will find himself under greater pressure when bringing the ball forward out of defence and will have to sharpen up his control and decision-making if he wants to triumph at a club where good use of the ball is a prerequisite for every player, even the goalkeeper. The advice of Gerard Pique, a player whose style he has sought to emulate, will be key.
The first few months will be tough, but Mina has a solid chance of eventually succeeding. He has so far taken every step up in his career in stride, and coaches who have worked with him highlight his desire to listen, learn and improve.
This is undoubtedly a bigger leap than the previous ones, and he perhaps would have been better advised to first move to a smaller European club, but given patience, he has the necessary attributes to make it work.
Mina is a calm and down-to-earth character, but his ambitions are high.
As he told AS Colombia last year: “I always try to keep my feet on the ground and my eyes to the sky.”