Sockless Mina looks to learn from Barcelona teammates

Colombia's soccer player Yerry Mina gestures at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. 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. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

MADRID (AP) Newly signed Barcelona defender Yerry Mina took off his shoes and socks before stepping onto the field at Camp Nou Stadium during his official introduction to fans on Saturday.

For the young Colombian, it was an important first step into his new home.

”There is a verse in life that says that the soles of your feet will touch the land that you want to conquer,” Mina said. ”And I want to make history here. I want to triumph.”

The 23-year-old Mina was signed from Brazilian club Palmeiras for 11.8 million euros ($14.3 million), ”fulfilling a dream” and joining a defense that has been depleted by the injury of France international Samuel Umtiti.

He is set to become the first Colombian to play an official match with the Catalan club.

”I want to add my grain of sand, learn from my teammates,” the easy-going defender said. ”We know the quality of my teammates, they are extremely good. Little by little I want to learn and work hard to become a good fit to the squad.”

Barcelona’s defense also has Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Thomas Vermaelen, who has been playing as a starter in Umtiti’s absence.

The tallest player in the squad at 1.95 meters (6-foot-4), Mina is known for his speed and impressive play with the ball at his feet. He is a threat on set-pieces and often makes runs forward.

”I’ve always enjoyed Barcelona’s style,” Mina said. ”It’s gratifying that it’s a style that I like.”

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

Barcelona initially 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 the hamstring injury to Umtiti, who hasn’t played since December and is not likely to return until next month.

Mina and Palmeiras already knew of Barcelona’s interest when he was signed from Colombian club Independiente Santa Fe at the beginning of 2016.

Mina had helped Santa Fe win the Copa Sudamericana in 2015, and was key for Palmeiras when it won the Brazilian league in 2016 and was runner-up in 2017. He was named one of the league’s best defenders in 2016.

Mina scored nine goals in 49 matches with Palmeiras, celebrating with his traditional dance moves.

”I always try to express what I feel while I’m on the field,” he said. ”We’ll see how it goes here. I’ll adapt to what the group wants to do.”

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