Wilmar Barrios: Tottenham ‘agree deal’ for Boca Juniors star

The 24-year-old defensive midfielder is little known outside of South America, but Mauricio Pochettino is a keen admirer.

(Photo credit: Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil)

According to translated reports coming from South America, Tottenham have agreed a deal to sign Wilmar Barrios from Boca Juniors after Mauricio Pochettino personally requested the addition of the player’s services.

The defensive midfielder is currently in Russia with the Colombian national team, preparing for their Group H opener against Japan on Tuesday.

Radio Mitre were the first to report details of the deal in Argentina, before it gained more attention after Antena 2, too, covered the story.

What does Barrios do?

After a £2.4m move to Boca Juniors from Colombian side Deportes Tolima in 2016, Barrios has since gone on to make 41 appearances for the back-to-back Argentine champions, winning two league titles in the process.

Making 23 appearances in 2017/18, Barrios has seen his influence grow in Buenos Aires and he’s become an integral part of Boca’s title-winning side, hence Pochettino’s burgeoning interest in the 24-year-old.

Given his 84.4% passing accuracy, Barrios is a competent ball-player, with an average of 51 passes per game. His record of 2.7 long balls per game in the Argentine Premier League denotes his ability to pass vertically, too, emphasising his range of passing.

However, Barrios is predominantly a defensive midfielder, with his biggest strengths lying in the art of defending, particularly tackling, blocking and intercepting.

For instance, the midfielder made three tackles per game, more than Tottenham’s Eric Dier (1.8), as well as 2.8 interceptions and 0.5 blocks per game. In fact, Barrios bettered Dier in all three of these defensive aspects.

With Mousa Dembele set to depart this summer, too, it leaves Tottenham with a void to fill. Barrios isn’t a like-for-like replacement, but making 0.9 dribbles per game, as well losing the ball less than once per game, he seems able to resist the press and retain the ball under pressure.

Why are Tottenham interested?

With Victor Wanyama supporting Dier in the ranks of the north London club, it raises the question of why Pochettino is keen to add another defensive midfielder to his squad?

Wanyama, 26, suffered a knee injury at the beginning of the campaign and saw his game time significantly reduced after a four month spell on the sidelines, making 24 appearances in all competitions. However, the Kenyan has not looked the same player since returning.

With Spurs wanting to compete for major honours, perhaps Pochettino’s thinking is that they don’t have the time to usher an injured player back into contention. With Borussia Dortmund, too, interested in Wanyama, it may make sense to cash in now whilst the opportunity is available.

Only Spurs know the true extent of Wanyama’s injury and whether he’s able to recover fully and reach the same level of performance as 2016/17.

As such, it’s logical to sign a new defensive midfielder to provide support for Dier in the position, especially one whose defensive stats are superior to that already in their ranks.

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Oli Stein


Oli graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in History and has worked with RealSport since September 2016.

Currently assistant football editor and Tottenham correspondent.

Follow him on Twitter: @steinoliver_