Everton’s Colombian centre-back Yerry Mina says uniting with compatriot James Rodriguez at Goodison Park is a source of “great joy”.
Mina signed for Everton from Barcelona in the summer of 2018 and was joined at the Club last month by James, who is making a blistering start to his Premier League career following a transfer from Real Madrid.
The South American duo started every match as Everton won four and drew one of their opening five league fixtures.
Everton put their unbeaten start on the line at Southampton on Sunday, with James fighting to overcome a haematoma to feature.
Mina and James have played together for their national team on 17 occasions.
When James delivered a free-kick for Mina to score against Brighton & Hove Albion this month it was the third time the pair have combined for a goal in their careers.
“It is a great joy to be able to play alongside James, he is like my brother,” said Mina.
“He is not just a good person who keeps me focused, he is somebody who can professionally help me.
“He brings something to my life. It is great sharing every day with him.
“Hopefully, we can achieve our objectives together.
“I thank God for giving us the opportunity to share this experience and to enjoy working together.
“We spend a lot of time together, socially. I go to eat or to distract ourselves from football.
“But when we need to focus, we focus.”
Mina is three games short of 50 Premier League appearances and could potentially reach the landmark before jetting off for World Cup qualifying matches against Uruguay and Ecuador next month.
He is in line to maintain his central defensive partnership with Michael Keane against Southampton this weekend.
Everton must wait to see if James will have the opportunity to add to his three goals and three assists this term on the south coast.
Mina is confident Everton can compensate for his countryman’s absence if needs be – with one position in Carlo Ancelotti’s forward line already up for grabs because of a suspension for Richarlison.
“The reason for our good start is we have been working really hard together,” said Mina.
“We have been compact and tight-knit on the pitch and in training.
“Our union is key to this good start.
“The manager will make sure we are prepared, we will make sure the person who comes in can take their opportunity.
“When we have players missing, it is a chance for others.
“That is what we do as a team, we cover each other.”
Mina had scant opportunity to impress Italian manager Ancelotti towards the end of last season, starting only two of Everton’s final 11 games, primarily because of injury niggles.
He was, though, heavily involved during the period when Dominic Calvert-Lewin netted eight goals in 10 league games from Boxing Day 2019.
Striker Calvert-Lewin has improved his ratio even further this season, scoring 10 times in seven games – seven in five in the Premier League.
Duelling with the 23-year-old every day gives Mina an insight into the challenge opposing defenders encounter when trying to shackle Everton’s relentless centre-forward.
“I really enjoy marking him [in training], it demands a lot,” said Mina.
“His movement is difficult to follow.
“When I mark him, it is a special moment, because he is a special player.
“It means I am more prepared when I face other opponents.
“When we train, I go in 100 per cent, I go in hard.
“You train as you play.
“But Dominic is a great person, very happy.
“It is great to have him as part of the family.
“We have a great family here and I am enjoying it.”
Ancelotti declared himself “really pleased” with Mina’s performances this season when speaking to the media in advance of Everton’s visit to Southampton.
And the respect between the two men is mutual.
“The boss is a very special person,” added Mina.
“He gives you the love you sometimes need, personally and from a sporting perspective."