Why Barcelona were smart to sign Yerry Mina before World Cup 2018
When Barcelona signed a relatively unknown Colombian center back in this year's January transfer window, not many people paid attention. 23-year-old Yerry Mina had performed extremely well during the previous season for Palmeiras, helping them to secure their first title in 22 years and catching the attention of scouts from numerous major European clubs.
While not many fans outside of South America knew the young Mina, Barcelona were quick to react to his excellent season, snapping up the giant 1.95-meter defender on a five and a half year contract for a bargain €11.8 million.
Mina went on to make five appearances for Barcelona as a bit-part player during the second half of the 2017/2018 season, becoming the first Colombian to wear the famous red and blue jersey in the process. He debuted as a late substitute in Barcelona's 2-0 Copa del Rey semi-final victory over Valencia and made his first assist for his new club in their 5-1 defeat of Villarreal.
While Mina had played in five of Colombia's World Cup Qualifiers, his performances at Palmeiras and Barcelona greatly contributed to him earning a place as a backup in Colombia’s 23-man World Cup squad and he flew to Russia expecting little game time. An unused substitute in Colombia’s first game against Japan, Mina was selected to start in his country’s next match against Poland thanks to the suspension of Carlos Sanchez Moreno due to his red card in the previous game.
Mina's outstanding performance and goal against Poland contributed to him keeping his starting place for the remainder of Colombia’s World Cup campaign while earning plaudits from fans around the world. He proved to be a key player in the heart of the defense, not just as a towering presence who could win ariel duels, but also as a composed and mature passer of the ball. At the other end of the pitch, he finished as his nation's top scorer with three magnificent and important headed goals.
The young Colombian has undoubtedly been one of the stars in this tournament, showcasing his ability on and off the ball and his prowess in front of goal. He has become only the third defender in World Cup history to score three times in a single tournament and is the first defender to do so with three headed goals. This is an astonishing achievement for a player who wasn't even considered a starter for his team upon arrival at the tournament.
The World Cup is all about discovering new talents and uncovering the stars of the future. Although Mina signed for Barcelona six months before the tournament started, he was a relative unknown going into the World Cup. However, his outstanding performances in helping Colombia reach the Round of 16 has significantly increased his popularity and recognisability. It would be no surprise to see the Colombian partner Gerard Pique in the heart of Barcelona’s defense next season and for him to go on to have an accomplished and decorated career.