If Yerry Mina was brutally honest, he would probably admit it has not been the ideal first few months to his Everton career.
Sidelined by a foot injury sustained in the World Cup, only in November - three months after his £27 million signing for Barcelona - did the Colombian make his first team bow for the Blues.
Since then, it has been a real baptism of fire for Mina, making his full competitive debut in the trip to Chelsea before visits to Liverpool and Manchester City soon after.
There have been low points for Mina, such as his rather rash display in last Monday’s 2-2 draw with Watford FC, or in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at City where his poor clearance which led to their opener compounded an awful individual performance.
But he has also been a colossal presence in a much-improved Everton defence at times, both in the Merseyside derby and his man-of-the-match debut at Chelsea; the Toffees remain the only side to leave Stamford Bridge with a clean sheet this season, which was in no small part down to Mina’s heroics.
That said, even immediately after his worst showing in royal blue against City, it is hardly a knee-jerk reaction to call for Blues boss Marco Silva to bench Mina for Everton’s next game at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Before Mina’s introduction, Michael Keane and Kurt Zouma had formed an encouraging partnership in the centre of defence; the reinvigorated former showing unprecedented levels of improvement on his lamentable first season at the Blues, and the latter proving an inspired loan acquisition from Chelsea.
With Zouma’s pace and strength and Keane’s superior aerial ability, the pair complemented each other perfectly.
In some respects, it is understandable why Silva brought Mina in to the side. Zouma had kept his new colleague on the bench for several weeks, in fairness, but when he was ineligible to face his parent club in November, it left the Portuguese manager with little option but to bed in Mina. Such was the quality of Mina’s performance that day that it left Silva with little excuse to drop him.
Aside from that, Mina, unlike Zouma, is permanently contracted to Everton, at least at this moment in time. From that point of view, as well as the lengths that director of football Marcel Brands went to secure Mina’s signature, it made sense for Silva to persist with the Colombian.
The manager experimented with three centre-backs against City, which patently backfired, and it is surely unlikely that Silva will maintain this tactic for the visit of Spurs given their menacing attack spearheaded by Harry Kane, who has scored braces in each of his last three games against Everton,
In truth, though, there is little to separate Zouma and Mina; both, along with Keane, have improved immeasurably a defence that was a shambolic mess for much of last campaign. It merely comes down to the solid, promising understanding built up between Keane and Zouma, which should not have been jettisoned to accomodate another signing, however expensive he may have been.
Spurs will provide a daunting test regardless of Everton’s defensive personnel on Sunday, but the Blues have looked most comfortable with Keane and Zouma dovetailing perfectly at the heart of their back line.
With a hectic festive programme around the corner, Mina will undoubtedly play some part in the near future if he is dropped for Sunday’s game.
His quality and potential is enormous, as is, literally, his towering 6ft 5in stature, but Keane and Zouma have earned their places. It should now be up to Mina to dislodge them.