Why Boca hothead Wilmar Barrios is great fit for Spurs despite Copa Libertadores final red card

Boca Juniors holding midfielder Wilmar Barrios went into a tackle, overdid his characteristic aggression and picked up a second yellow card.

The Colombian was sent off, and the stage was set for his compatriot, River Plate’s Juan Fernando Quintero, to win the game for his side.

Barrios and Quintero were in action for Colombia against England in that World Cup second round tie in Russia on July 3.

Barrios could have been sent off in that game, too.

He was lucky to get away with just a yellow for flicking a little head-butt at Jorden Henderson as they waited for a free kick to be taken.

The 25-year-old Colombian is a feisty character.

But, in two and a half years at Boca, this was his first red card.

His absence in the final half hour only served to underline his importance.

Without his covering and his tackling, his midfield presence and leadership, it was much easier for River Plate to take the initiative and go on to win the biggest game in the history of this epic Argentine rivalry.

And it could be one of the last times that Barrios is seen in a Boca shirt.

He is an obvious candidate for a move to Europe and Premier League clubs, especially Tottenham, are said to be interested.

The appeal is clear.

There is something of the young Javier Mascherano in Barrios.

Quick across the ground, sharp in the tackle, quick with his distribution – his passing may not quite be in the class of Mascherano, but he is safe enough – the occasional card is a fair price to pay for the virtues of such a defensive midfield dynamo.

Barrios, from Cartagena up on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, grew up the hard way. He wandered the buses selling sweets.

He was taken to Tolima, a first division club in Colombia, where he made his debut at 19 and was team captain by the age of 21.

Boca took him to Buenos Aires in the middle of 2016.

This was a big jump, but Barrios did not even blink.  He soon made himself an indispensable member of the starting line-up, and the fans quickly took to him.

Boca have a working class, sweat and sacrifice ethic, and the little big man act of Barrios in the heart of midfield left them in raptures.

They could all see themselves represented by the way that he went about his business – and Premier League fans may end up feeling the same way about him.

Wilmar Barrios may not have brought the 2018 Copa Libertadores to Boca.
But he played a big role in the league title wins of 2016/17 and 17/18.

His trip to Madrid for Sunday’s final may cause him some unhappy memories. But it could also set off his quest for more silverware on that side of the Atlantic.


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