At 5:30 pm on Thursday 11th January earlier this year, Barcelona confirmed the €11.8 million transfer of Yerry Mina from Palmeiras. Within a contract that runs until June 30, 2023, a €100 million buyout clause was inserted to protect what they regarded as a player of great potential.
The 23-year-old defender made his debut exactly one month later, helping the Blaugrana keep a clean sheet in their 0-0 draw against Getafe. He would only add seven more minutes to that over the next two months with a flitting cameo at the end of the second-leg win over Valencia in the Copa Del Rey.
With only three more starts and another brief substitute appearance during the final six league fixtures, Mina appears to be behind Thomas Vermaelen in the pecking order.
With the arrival of Clement Lenglet from Sevilla this summer, Mina’s opportunities for the season ahead look precarious at best despite only joining the club around six months ago.
A timely boost
Despite not featuring in Colombia’s opening World Cup fixture against Japan, Mina went on to play in each of their three following matches. Furthermore, he scored his team’s opening goal in all three games, making him one of the standout performers in Russia this summer.
With his name in the headlines and poor prospects on the horizon, the Mina propaganda machine has been cranked up to 11.
From Liverpool to Southampton, and Arsenal to Wolves, his name has reappeared in the British press alongside ten different Premier League clubs over the last few weeks. Having seemingly settled on Everton, Manchester United is now being cited as the most likely destination for this six foot four ball-playing defender who’s still brimming with potential.
A match made in… desperation?
Of the ten English clubs linked with Mina, eight of them finished in last season’s top-ten and all but Tottenham have spent in excess of £40 million so far this summer.
While it’s not unusual for a player to proposed to clubs or for the machinations of the press to be used to increase interest in a player, it’s now been over a month since speculation first arose surrounding Mina moving on.
At the other end of this pairing, Jose Mourinho’s frustrations are well-documented.
The list of centre backs linked with a move to Old Trafford has grown exponentially in recent weeks. Ranging from Toby Alderweireld to Gary Cahill by way of Caglar Soyuncu, Mina’s name has once more been written alongside that of Manchester United.
Too much, too soon
United’s need for a centre back, however, also encompasses a need for experience and leadership. While Mina has a strong aerial and physical presence along with a style that fits counter-attacking football, Mourinho can hardly afford to gamble on a new signing who carries more potential than actual ability.
At the core of this is the fact that Mina has only been living and playing football in Europe since the beginning of this year.
But rather than be given time to settle, Barcelona’s capture of Malcom has effectively frozen the Colombian defender out of the Catalans first team. With only three non-EU players permitted under La Liga rules, Philippe Coutinho and Arthur make up the trio which will likely comprise Ernesto Valverde’s team.
To buy or to loan, that is the question
There are feasibly many clubs who could accommodate Mina within their squad this season. From reuniting him with Davinson Sanchez at Tottenham to fill an Alderweireld-shaped gap in their squad, to picking up regular football at the likes of West Ham, Everton or Crystal Palace.
The current stumbling-block, therefore, appears to be his price. With reported fees suggesting his value has quadrupled over the course of the World Cup, this hyper-inflated price could well be preventing a deal being agreed.
Unlike most last-minute deals in the transfer window, Mina’s situation is likely to see his price drop rather than rise over the next week. If this is the case, someone could well be in line to pick up a bargain. But who?
The persistent rumour
Ever since it became clear that Mina’s time on Catalan soil was coming to an end, two names have continued to bob to the surface. Everton and Manchester United. But while it’s easy to quickly write off the link to United, there could there be more substance to them than first meets the eye.
REUTERS/Carl RecineIt’s easy to focus on the poor performances at the end of last season against Celta Vigo and Levante, though Mina was playing in a system that did not fit his style.
The perfect match?
In Manchester, he would not be forced to play a high defensive line which exposes his deficiencies in mobility. Instead, he would be used in a system which plays to his strengths.
As a player more than capable of repelling high balls and generally defending the six-yard box he could provide ideal back-up to the injury-prone Eric Bailly. With United’s main need still appearing to be in the wingback positions, Mina would strengthen the current defence and still leave plenty of funds for another major signing to bolster their starting XI.
Although it’s easy to fall into the narrative that Mourinho only recruits expensive players in their prime, at Manchester, only two of the eight players to cost more than £5 million have been over 25 years old.
Mina fits the prototype of a Mourinho signing more than first appears and he could well become the Red Devils' latest signing.