How has your adaptation to the cold of St. Petersburg been so far?
It’s been good. I think that knowing that a lot of the year is going to be cold makes you change your mindset. It is important that I am enjoying this new stage of my career at this club, having teammates also from South America has helped me a lot.
And how are your wife and daughter finding it there?
They are fine and are happy. This is a beautiful city and we go out to look around and get to know the place, we are enjoying everything, even if it is cold!
The weather could be compared to Buenos Aires there, but as for the football, how similar are Argentina and Russia?
Perhaps Argentine football is more intense with more contact. The strikers there are the first line of defence, In Russia you have more freedom, which means that you have the opportunity to find the right position before getting the ball and to play quickly, passing is much faster here.
What has changed for Wilmar Barrios now you’re playing in European football, has your role as a defensive midfielder changed?
I have matured and grown with every game. I only take positives out of everything and that has given me a lot of help in my football career. At the moment I hope to continue doing my best for Zenit
You played 10 official matches to win your first title in Russia, how was it winning the title at Zenit and what was the intensity of the fans like?
It was wonderful and I was very happy. Before coming here I looked at the Russian Premier League table and saw it was close at the top and knew that if we took the points, we could reach our goal and becoming champions. This season too we are aiming to win it, and the supporters are 100% supportive of the club and every day I am learning more about the fans, so it is important to give back to them for the love I receive on the pitch.
You’ve played in the Copa Libertadores, the Europa League and now the Champions League, how did you feel when you heard the Champions League anthem on the pitch for the first time?
In the past I watched the Champions League at home with my family or school friends and that was nice, but when I experienced it for rea it was very special. As a player, things like that can happen to you just once or many times, so I want to enjoy it as much as possible!
There are three former River Plate players at Zenit, did you discuss last season’s Copa Libertadores final together? (Wilmar is a former Boca player - Ed.)
No, we are professionals and we all know that this happens in football. When you play you can win, lose or draw. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose and that’s all fine. In sport it’s important to grow and take the best out of any result, it doesn’t matter if it’s an important final or just an ordinary match. We should always be respectful with each other.
You’ve become an important player for Colombia, what has been the key to this progress?
Patience, waiting and preparing for the right time, and to seize the opportunity when it comes, that has always been key for me. I’ve had some experienced players around me and I’ve learnt from them step by step. I always try to take something good from each person around me and appreciate the trust they put in me.
Who is harder to play against, Neymar or Messi?
Both are difficult. They are both players who cannot be given any space because they can make a difference in a second. They think faster than others and both are two of the best in the world, I enjoy playing against them!
For you, what has been your best game for Colombia?
In the 2018 World Cup in Russia against Poland and against England. In the Copa América the first time he played it too, that was special.
What is your next goal after arriving in European football?
For now, I want to do my best for Zenit and enjoy playing in the Champions League. The dream is to qualify to the next round and just do the best that we can.
When you were a child which player in your position did you admire the most?
When I was little I didn't watch much football. I played it but I didn't follow it much. I watched Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, all those top players that were there at the time. Currently I like Casemiro, Kanté, Busquets, Verratti and all those who play in my position where I can learn something positive from.
What was your childhood like in Colombia?
It was pretty, but it was not easy and that's what life is about, to overcome difficulties, not to regret things but to look for the right path. I thank my mother and father who led me down the right path. They wanted one thing for me and I didn't, but thank God I chose well and had it not been for my parents, I might not have chosen football but worse things, which was easy at that time. I think about yesterday and wonder what would have happened to my life if I hadn't listened to their advice.
You spent New Year in hospital with your mother. How is she now?
Last year we experience that for the first time. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. It was serious, she had an operation and she was there for a month. Today she is much better and this really makes me happy because she is an important part of my life. She is not here with me because she does not like to travel much, but I always keep an eye on her and make sure she is ok.