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Transfer Rater: Kante to Barcelona

Football Whispers
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Mina's future looks bright but not at Barcelona

Barcelona
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 By Tim Vickery

Yerry Mina's build, physical style make him an intriguing target for Barcelona

ESPN FC'S Steve Nicol talks whether or not players are able to resist the temptation of playing for Real Madrid, Barcelona or PSG.

The January transfer window is usually quiet, but Barcelona are spending big; after making Philippe Coutinho the second most expensive player in the world, they are now adding 23-year-old giant Colombian centre-back Yerry Mina to their squad.

The fee might be tiny in comparison to Coutinho. The outlay is a €11.8 million. But it is a lot more than they would have had to pay just over two years ago, when Mina was available at a cut price of €1m.

He was still in Colombian football then. After making his debut with provincial Deportivo Pasto, Mina made his name in the capital, Bogota, with Independiente Santa Fe. Commanding in the air, quick across the ground, he stood out as much for his defensive quality as for his gangling 1.95-metre frame.

So impressive was he in three consecutive international club competitions -- two versions of the Copa Libertadores and one Copa Sudamericana, which Santa Fe won -- that it was surprising that he was not on a fast track to top-level European club football.

Had he been Brazilian or Argentine he would surely have been picked up earlier. Instead, following Santa Fe's exit from the 2016 Libertadores, Palmeiras swooped to take him south to Brazil -- where he soon had another league title to add to his collection.

Yerry Mina's size allows him to be a devastating aerial presence at centre-back.

Mina also has nine international caps and stands out as a highlight in what was a successful but uninspired Colombian World Cup qualification campaign. He made his debut in the United States during the 2016 Copa Centenario. He then went into the starting lineup in World Cup qualification. The five times he played, Colombia were never beaten (three wins, two draws) and kept four clean sheets.

The only time they conceded was against Uruguay, who led 2-1 inside the last 10 minutes. Mina went and put it right, starting the move with a charge out of defence, then finishing it off with a typical towering header to level the score. In all he has three goals in his nine international games -- an illustration of his strength in the air in both penalty areas.

Colombia might have qualified with greater ease had not Mina missed the last four rounds due to injury. Indeed, one possible question mark against his signing is the fear that his giant frame might be prone to the occasional breakdown.

There are two other possible problem areas, along with the question of adaptation both on and off the pitch, which always apply to a player crossing the Atlantic. One is a tendency to pick up cards -- he missed the 3-0 defeat to a Leo Messi-inspired Argentina after receiving two yellow cards in his first three games. When a player of his size mistimes a tackle or commits himself aggressively, the outcome can look ugly.

The other is his suitability for a team that loves to build from the back, where defenders must receive the ball under pressure and make sound passing decisions. Mina is no slouch on the ball and loves a forward surge, but there might be the occasional passing error in a zone of the pitch where such mistakes can be very costly.

For a centre-back of such potential, however, the transfer fee is far from costly. Mina has proved a smash success with Pasto, Santa Fe, Palmeiras and Colombia, and it will fascinating to see whether he can keep the run going at Barcelona.

Tim Vickery covers South American football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Vickery.

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