BARCELONA — Yerry Mina insists he feels no pressure after signing for Barcelona but admits meeting Lionel Messi made his hair stand up.
Barca fast-tracked an agreement they had to sign Mina for €9 million in the summer, paying Brazilian side Palmeiras an additional €2.8m to bring the deal forward six months due to Javier Mascherano’s impending move to China.
Among his new teammates is five-time world player of the year Messi, who Mina met for the first time when he watched Barca train on Friday.
“It’s special for me [to play with Messi],” he said. “For me, he’s the best player in the world.
“The first impression I got from him was one of humility. I was sat on the bench [on Friday] and he came over with [Luis] Suarez from training, it was really special when he came to welcome me — it made my hair stand on end.
“I have always been a Barcelona fan. I have always liked their style and it’s enormously gratifying to now play for them and alongside the best players in the world.”
Mina, 23, was presented at Camp Nou on Saturday in front of 8,552 supporters — over 1,000 more than had been at Philippe Coutinho’s presentation earlier in the week.
He took his first steps on the Camp Nou pitch barefooted, a tradition which he has followed at each of his clubs in the past.
“It’s a proverb from the Bible,” he explained. “It says that with the planting of your [bare] feet you will touch the terrain you want to conquer. And I want to succeed here.”
A large number of fans present were Colombians who live in Catalonia, with hundreds of Colombian flags, banners and shirts on display.
“I want to say thanks to Colombia for all the support I have received,” Mina said in his first news conference after signing a five-and-a-half-year deal.
“Those of us that are playing outside [of Colombia] are opening doors for the others. And we want to open the doors because there is a huge amount of talent to be seen there.
“The joy I’m experiencing at signing for Barca is immense. I dreamed of this moment and now I am fulfilling that dream, for my town Guechene and for all of Colombia.”
Mina’s taken his socks and boots off for his first steps on the Camp Nou pitch. Colombians here going crazy. Reckon there could be more people/excitement than at Coutinho presentation on Monday. pic.twitter.com/6ILbbSJfiu
— Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) January 13, 2018
With Mascherano set to leave for Manuel Pellegrini’s Hebei Fortune before the end of the month, Mina will compete for a place with Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen.
“Whether I am playing regularly or not, it’s up to me to work hard and to learn as much as I can,” Mina said. “Then it’s up to the coach [Ernesto Valverde] to decide who plays.”
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.