Well, this came out of nowhere. According to Argentinian website Antena 2, Tottenham Hotspur have reportedly reached an agreement with Boca Juniors for the transfer of Colombian international and defensive midfielder Wilmar Barrios.
Wilmar Barrios - Argentine Primera Division 17/18 [for @Retro442] pic.twitter.com/ctDyizowVG— Football Radars (@FussballRadars) May 21, 2018
I’m not going to sit here and type out that I knew anything about Barrios before seeing this report, because I don’t. If true, this is a complete surprise. Barrios is 23 years old, has been at Boca Juniors for two years, and reportedly has a release clause of about €16m. His offensive stats aren’t eye-popping — one goal and no assists in 2300 minutes in the Argentine Premera Division, but his defensive numbers look pretty impressive. Apparently, in Argentina they call him “El Kante Colombiano.”
The report states that Pochettino had been tracking the player closely for a while and had asked directly to sign him. He’s apparently become an integral part of Boca Juniors, a club that Pochettino knows well, and Barrios is also a Colombian international with ten caps who is currently in Russia.
He’s also apparently built like a tank. Take a look at this video.
Now, that’s one video of one match in the Argentine league. I can sense your skepticism from here. So here’s another one.
I gotta say there’s quite a bit to like there with Barrios’ tackling, positioning, and dribbling. Dare I say it, his strength on the ball looks almost... Dembele-esque. I don’t speak Spanish, but it sure sounds like the guys evaluating him in these videos like him a lot. (Maybe a native Spanish speaker could summarize what was said in the comments.)
With Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama currently in the side, you’d think another #6 would be relatively low on the priority list. However, having Kante-lite in the side certainly has its appeal as Spurs look to a post-Dembele world, and remember that Kante himself was plucked from obscurity and spent a season at Leicester before breaking out. It makes you wonder that if this is a thing there might actually be something to the rumors liking Victor Wanyama away from the club.
Antena 2 writes that Boca Juniors was going to try and increase his release clause from €16 to €20m, but that Tottenham’s interest would probably mean he’d move on before that happens. There’s no reporting on if Spurs met the release clause, or what the agreed-upon fee is.
It’s also not clear how easy it would be for Barrios to get a release clause. South American players often find it difficult to get permits to play in England, although Barrios’ 10 international caps might work in his favor. Spurs managed to get a permit for Juan Foyth, so this might not be a big deal.
But let’s not put the cart in front of the horse here. It’s silly season, and it’s always good to view reports such as this one with a healthy dose of skepticism, at least at first. I’m withholding judgement until I see this in a reputable English paper or get some additional sourcing. In the meantime, I’ll be watching Colombia’s opening World Cup match against Japan on Tuesday with great interest, and not just because Davinson Sanchez will be in the starting lineup.
Update: Thanks to Joel Wortheimer, who dug up this podcast about Barrios. It’s worth a listen — there’s good stuff in here.