Mina brings solid defending and Colombian flair to Barcelona

(AP Photo/Fernando Vergara, File)

By TALES AZZONI

AP Sports Writer

MADRID (AP) There will be some Colombian dancing in Barcelona.

A few days after signing Philippe Coutinho to boost its attack, Barcelona strengthened its defense by adding young Colombian international Yerry Mina, a solid defender who is a threat on set-pieces and is known for his slick dance moves during goal celebrations.

Barcelona brought in the 23-year-old player from Brazilian club Palmeiras to try to make up for the absence of France international Samuel Umtiti, who has been out injured since the beginning of December and is not likely to return until next month.

The Spanish league leader said on Thursday it has paid 11.8 million euros ($14 million) for the tall and speedy Mina, who will become the first Colombian to play an official game for the Spanish club. He will also become the tallest player in the squad at 1.95 meters (6-foot-4).

"Mina arrives to reinforce the central defensive positions," Barcelona said in a statement. "He will bring a physical presence as his 1.95-meter frame suggests, but he is also a quick, ball-playing defender. The Colombian uses his aerial prowess to impose himself and score goals."

The easy-going defender celebrates his goals with dance moves that often go viral online.

The contract is valid until June 2023 and has a buyout clause of 100 million euros ($119 million).

Barcelona had an agreement with Palmeiras to bring Mina in the middle of this year for about 9 million euros, but agreed to pay extra and advance the deal because of Umtiti's hamstring injury.

Barcelona has been using Thomas Vermaelen alongside Gerard Pique in the middle of the defense, with veteran Javier Mascherano as their backup.

Mina is known for his speed and daring. He often makes runs forward and is dangerous in the box thanks to his vertical reach. Most of his goals for Palmeiras have been off set-pieces, and he ended his stint in Brazil with nine goals in 49 matches.

Mina, who started as a goalkeeper as a youngster, was a key part for Palmeiras as it won the Brazilian league in 2016 and was runner-up last year. He also helped former Colombian club Independiente Santa Fe win the Copa Sudamericana in 2015.

Part of the transfer fee will go to his former clubs in Colombia.

The only other Colombian player to wear Barcelona's jersey was forward Lauro Gonzalo Mosquera, but his only appearance came in a friendly in 1964. Barcelona said the match served as a trial for Mosquera, who did not join the club.

Mina is set to play in his first World Cup in Russia this year. He missed part of last season because of a serious foot injury with Palmeiras.

Barcelona hosts Celta Vigo later Thursday in the Copa del Rey last 16. The teams drew 1-1 in the first leg last week in Vigo.

Its next Spanish league match is on Sunday at Real Sociedad. Barcelona has a nine-point lead over Atletico Madrid at the halfway point.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Updated January 11, 2018