“That’s him, strong, quick, both feet, can head like crazy, jumps through the roof. He’s all you need.”
If someone was trying to convince you that Yerry Mina was the perfect modern-day centre-half, the above quote could conclude their argument. Mina has shone so far at the World Cup, avoiding the rustiness one would expect from someone who has barely seen the field since January (he has played 377 minutes since arriving at Barcelona), and Tuesday’s clash between Colombia and England will give Liverpool fans an opportunity to see a man they have been linked with frequently.
The above quote is even more salient given it is from Jurgen Klopp, elucidating precisely the attributes he looks for in a defender. That it was in reference to Dejan Lovren, the centre back Mina would be tabbed to replace, or at least compete with, is also important. In Virgil van Dijk, Klopp has one Rolls Royce of a centre-half – calm, composed and a leader who exudes a confidence that is passed on to those around him. Mina has that look about him, albeit in a very limited sample size.
At just 23, Mina has years of development ahead of him, and at 6’5 with excellent pace and coordination has the sort of physique coaches dream of. Pairing him with the equally physically imposing van Dijk would provide Liverpool with a freakish centre-back duo. Furthermore, Mina has shown himself to be sufficiently two-footed, capable of passing through the lines and possessing a good understanding of the defensive and offensive structures employed by Colombia, enabling him to orchestrate those in front of him. He has not shrunk away from the significance of the games he has been involved in and, as a bonus, has scored in both to maintain his ridiculous goal scoring record for a centre back.
That record is in no small part helped by an aerial ability that suggests he would slide well into Liverpool’s back line, where the centre-halves’ aerial prowess is crucial given the team’s high pressing. Once the opposition are forced to play the ball long, Liverpool rely on winning the resultant aerial battle and earning possession in the middle of the field. Additionally, Mina’s mobility will serve him well pursuing long balls played down the channels in behind the press from Liverpool’s full-backs. Lovren excels in these areas, and Mina has demonstrated he should be capable of doing so.
This is not to say that Mina is perfect, or even that he is better than Lovren at this stage of his career. At the moment he looks more comfortable defending more passively (whereas Lovren is the centre-half Klopp asks to be more aggressive) and as a result, his decision making is likely to require further development under Klopp. In addition, he certainly has more cover in front of him playing for Colombia than he will do regularly if he were playing for Liverpool – this may mask deficiencies in his decision making regarding when to be aggressive and when to drop off. He also can look a little clumsy in possession at times, and his ability to quickly transfer the ball will need to develop further.
Nevertheless, given his youthfulness and talent, Liverpool would be well served investigating the practicalities of an approach for Mina, as they look to take their team to the next level. Rather than a basis for signing him, Mina’s World Cup performances should be final push the team need.