Meet Yerry Mina, the dance master destined to become Barcelona’s next great centre-back


Next up in Jack Lang's series of scouting reports from the Brasileirão is one of the best defenders in South America. But he's not Brazilian...

His name translates as Jerry Mines, but Yerry Mina is much more likely to get his team out of a hole than he is to drag them down one. 

That's true at both ends of the pitch as well: the Palmeiras centre-back is dominant in defence but also deadly from set pieces, scoring goals at a rate most midfielders would envy. It's quite a package, so it's little surprise that Mina is considered one of the most exciting emerging talents out there...


 

Background

Mina grew up in the village of Guachené, 40 minutes from Cali, and his first steps in football were as a goalkeeper. It was a family thing – his dad had played between the sticks for América de Cali and Once Caldas – but young Yerry decided he wanted to stand out a bit more, so moved outfield.

He joined the youth ranks at Deportivo Pasto at the age of 17 and it soon became clear that he was something special. "He had good technical ability, a good pass, a good physique, plus intelligence and intuition," said Fernando Figueroa, his youth coach at the club. "He arrived as a defensive midfielder but we needed centre-backs and he adapted. He was a really respectful kid – I liked him."

Mina made his first-team debut at 19 and was then snapped up by Independiente Santa Fé, consolidating his status as one of Colombia's most precious prospects. He became a first-team regular, impressing with his power and poise, and attracting interest from outside of his homeland thanks to some fine displays in the successful Copa Sul-Americana campaign of 2015.


More eye-catching performances in the following season's Copa Libertadores convinced Palmeiras to bring him to Brazil. It has been a match made in heaven: Mina helped the Verdão to their first Série A title in 12 years and is adored by the fans. He was named in the South American team of the year by El País and has become a regular in the Colombia side this year.

 

Style and strengths 

Mina is what Brazilians would call a 'zagueiro artilheiro' – a goalscoring centre-back. He may only be 22, but already he has plundered 20 goals in his professional career, including eight in 36 starts for Palmeiras. A good number have been towering headers – Mina is 1m95 tall and very strong in the air – but he's a decent finisher with his feet, too, and has great instincts in the box when set pieces come in.

That would be cool but fairly pointless if he was a poor defender, but he's not. Mina has the power and athleticism to bully opposition strikers, plus good positional sense. He's also very comfortable with the ball at his feet, helping to start attacks from deep.


 

Areas for improvement

Before he moved from Colombia, Palmeiras coach Cuca suggested that one weakness was that he would dally on the ball, putting his team in danger. But that has rarely happened at the Allianz Parque; Mina can appear a bit leggy at times, but he's usually in control. More pertinent might be his eagerness and enthusiasm, which are positive attributes in the main but can drag him out of the defensive line when he'd be best hanging back.  

 

Who would he suit? 

If Mina continues to progress in this manner, he should become a global star. He has stated his admiration for the Premier League in the past ("Any team can beat any other and I like the emotion of it") and has admitted he follows Manchester United from afar.

But there's bad news for any English clubs hoping to snap him up: there is already a deal in place for Barcelona to sign him. The Catalans were interested in Mina when he was in Colombia, but struck up a deal with Palmeiras, allowing the São Paulo club to buy him as long as they got first option on any future deal before July 2017.

Since then, the agreement has been firmed up and altered a touch, with the defender now expected to move to the Camp Nou after the 2018 World Cup for a fee in the region of €9million.

 

What they say 

Palmeiras coach Cuca: "He's got everything it takes to be a top centre-back, one of the best in the world. He's a player who will outgrow Palmeiras, no doubt about that. He's really strong in the air when he goes forward and is quick in defence. He doesn't back off; he attacks the ball and also builds play from the back."

 

Did you know? 

A major part of Mina's cult appeal lies in his dance moves. He celebrates most of his goals with a little jig, which has shades of traditional Colombian cumbia but also healthy dollops of sass and swagger. "It's important to express my happiness, and that of the team," he explained in March. "Back home, everyone dances."


He calls it "electric-shock salsa" (amazing) and has even taken to teaching some of the key steps to team-mates. Róger Guedes, Zé Roberto and Felipe Melo have all followed his lead on the field, but the most willing apprentice was probably Gabriel Jesus, who really hit it off with the defender before leaving to join Manchester City. 

Here's Mina teaching the youngster some moves – and it's worth noting that this was recorded just a few minutes before his debut for Palmeiras. Nerves? Nope, never heard of them.