Yerry Mina was a revelation during the 2018 World Cup. The 23-year-old center back scored three goals in as many matches, and Colombia conceded just once with him on the pitch. Mina's stoppage time header against England was a dramatic final act in his World Cup debut.
— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) July 3, 2018
The World Cup is the perfect stage for a player to announce he has arrived — and Yerry Mina did exactly that. Mina moved to Barcelona in January, but he made just five appearances with the club. Prior to his $14 million transfer from Palmeiras to Camp Nou, Mina had only played professionally in Brazil and his native Colombia.
When the world finally got the chance to watch him play, Mina carried a Colombia team that sadly couldn't get everything to click. Los Cafeteros were tantalizingly good in their 3-0 win against Poland. But that was the only occasion when James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao played a full match together.
James was sidelined by a calf injury for Colombia’s Round of 16 loss, and it’s now unlikely that we’ll ever see him team up with Falcao for an entire World Cup.
Colombia fans do, however, have plenty of reason for optimism moving forward. Their young center back pairing of Yerry Mina and Davinson Sanchez dazzled in Russia. Sanchez regularly started alongside Jan Vertonghen for Tottenham last season, and he built off of a promising foray in the EPL with a solid World Cup. But it was Mina who stole the show in Russia.
After a 10-man Colombia fell 2-1 in its opener against Japan, Jose Pekerman gave Mina the start alongside Sanchez for the Poland match. Colombia was a different team with him in the lineup.
In need of a result against Poland to get back on track, Colombia got a goal from Mina to open the scoring late in the first half.
#MundialTelemundo Así lo narró @AndresCantorGOL : ¡Llega el primero de #COL! Un bonito centro de @jamesdrodriguez que hace que Yerry Mina se eleve para rematar de cabeza #POL 0-1 #COL pic.twitter.com/Gw8NKw7UmS— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) June 24, 2018
Los Cafeteros rolled from there. For a brief moment, it looked like everything was coming together for them. But fast-forward to the 31st minute against Senegal, when James limped off the pitch in what would be his final moment of the tournament.
With Colombia's attack weakened, Mina stepped up to ensure that Colombia advanced to the knockout stage.
— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) June 28, 2018
It’d be easy to confuse Mina with a Zlatan-like striker, but again, he was scoring goals as a center back. And on the defensive end, Mina was stellar as well. Harry Kane's penalty was the only goal Colombia conceded while he was on the pitch, and it came courtesy of a foul from repeat offender Carlos Sanchez.
Mina looked supremely confident on the ball. His first touch, distribution and positioning belied his youth. Within a few minutes of watching him play, it was easy to see why Barcelona attached a $120 million release clause to his contract.
And that’s what makes Colombia’s penalty kick shootout loss all the more tragic. Will we actually get to see Yerry Mina feature in the Champions League next season, or will we merely catch a glimpse of him buried on Barcelona’s bench?
Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti are clearly Ernesto Valverde’s first-choice center backs. And Marca has reported that Barcelona is closing in on signing Sevilla’s 23-year-old defender Clement Lenglet.
Most clubs in the world — Manchester United, Everton and Arsenal to name a few — would plug Mina directly into their starting XI. But unless Barcelona amends Mina’s release clause provision, he'll only play sparingly against mid-table La Liga sides.
While Mina’s professional future is uncertain, it’s only a matter of time before he wears the armband for Los Cafeteros. Mina and Davinson Sanchez will anchor Colombia's defense for the next decade, and a healthy James in Qatar 2022 will give Colombia a chance to make a deep run.
For now, though, we can only hope to see a lot more of Yerry Mina at the club level next season.