Eric Bailly: 10 things to know about Manchester United's latest signing
22-year-old Villarreal’s central defender Eric Bertrand Bailly has signed for Manchester United on a four-year contract in a deal believed to be worth £25 million. The Ivory Coast international played in 25 matches for the Yellow Submarine in the La Liga last season and also played in 9 matches for them in the Europa League, scoring two goals in the process.
According to widespread media reports, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was touted to be Jose Mourinho’s first signing for United, however, the centre defender became the first player to sign for Mourinho-led-United. Bailly, who caught attention within a year after making debut for Villarreal in 2014, was supposedly chased by Manchester City and Barcelona as well.
The 22-year-old is 6ft 1 inch tall and can be a good signing for the Premier League club, given his strength and aerial prowess. Now that he has signed for the Red Devils, we take a look at some interesting and relatively unknown facts about the African player, who can ply his trade at the right-back position as well.
1. Bailly was born in Bingerville, Ivory Coast on 12 April 1994 and it was in 2011 when his footballing abilities came to the fore. He was spotted by Espanyol in a youth tournament in Burkina Faso and was straightaway taken up by the Catalan club. However, a delay in receiving the work permit meant he had to wait for 10 months before he was allowed to play for their B-team in the Segunda Division-B.
2. The 22-year-old made his senior team debut on 5 October 2014 after coming on as a substitute against Real Sociedad in a 2-0 win for Espanyol.
3. Two months after making his debut for Espanyol’s senior team, Bailly was called up in Ivory Coast’s squad by coach Harve Renard for the Africa Cup of Nations 2015. He first donned the orange Ivorian jersey on 11 January 2015 in a friendly against Nigeria.
4. Bailly played in all the six matches for the Elephants in the tournament and even converted his spot-kick in the final against Ghana, where Ivory coast won the shootout 9-8. It was during the tournament that he was snapped up by Villarreal from Espanyol for a reported fee of £4.4million on a five-year deal.
5. The Ivory Coast international was signed by the Yellow Submarines on 29 January 2015 as a replacement for then-outgoing Gabriel Paulista, who joined Arsenal. Bailly started slowly for them, making 12 appearances between January and May as the competition for the two centre-back spots was tough, to say the least.
6. Bailly rose in stature during the 2015-16 season, where he made 38 appearances and kept 17 La Liga clean sheets and let in just 35 goals. He was instrumental in helping the El Madrigal-based club to a fourth-placed finish in the Spanish top division, behind the three Liga-giants, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
7. Bailly showed his mettle in Villarreal’s fixtures against Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. While he helped his team keep two clean sheets in two matches against Los Rojiblancos in the league, he kept the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale at bay in Villarreal’s 1-0 victory over Real Madrid in December.
8. Bailly played a huge part in Villarreal’s run to the semifinals of this season’s Europa League where they fell to Liverpool. The Ivorian scored two goals for the Spanish club in the tournament, however, he was forced to miss the Yellow Submarine’s second leg loss to the English club in the semi-final due to injury.
9. One stat which would increase the United faithful hopes regarding Bailly’s talent will be that the 22-year-old was dribbled past fewer times than any of the regular central defenders in Spain’s top four clubs last season. This list includes the likes of Sergio Ramos, Diego Godin and Gerard Pique.
10. The 22-year-old has had his issues with discipline as he has a habit of picking up cheap yellow cards. He received 10 yellow cards and a red card last season in the La Liga, along with 1 yellow card in the Europa League and 2 in Copa del Rey. However, the point to note here is that he did not pick a single booking in the last 13 matches he played for Villarreal, which is a considerable improvement.