On Wednesday afternoon Manchester United confirmed the signing of Eric Bailly from Spanish club Villarreal for a fee believed to be in the region of £30 million. The 22-year-old centre-back is a very shrewd acquisition for this year’s FA Cup winners and the first for new United boss Jose Mourinho.
It looks as though Mourinho prioritised buying a central defender this summer, having reportedly concluded that Dutch international Daley Blind doesn’t fit the physical profile of what he wants in a centre-back.
Before signing Bailly, the Red Devils were also linked with defensive stars such as PSG's Marquinhos and Roma's Kostas Manolas, however, the Ivory Coast international is potentially the player who will be able to adapt the quickest to the style of English football.
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Eric Bailly, who only joined Villarreal in January 2015, was a stalwart in the side that finished fourth in La Liga last term and qualified for next season’s Champions League. He made 35 appearances in all competitions, scoring one goal and producing many strong defensive displays over the course of the campaign.
The United signing is well suited to the physical, fast-paced nature of the Premier League because he is extremely quick across the ground and strong both physically and mentally. Bailly is an aggressive tackler, he reads the game well for such a young player and makes lots of interceptions.
Technically, Bailly is versatile defender, composed on the ball and has the skill to break out from defence and launch attacks. The youngster is difficult to get past in one-on-one situations and could form an excellent partnership alongside England international Chris Smalling if he hits the ground running at Old Trafford next season.
Why did Mourinho want Bailly?
Mourinho seems to be examining his new squad of players and there is no question that Bailly possesses the qualities that the “Special One” usually favours in his defenders. The Portuguese manager has a track record of giving young, powerful and commanding defenders their berth at big clubs, from Raphael Varane at Real Madrid to Kurt Zouma at Chelsea, and Bailly looks set to be no different.
Bailly isn’t the finished product
Despite all his attributes, Bailly is a raw talent and is by no means the finished article that United arguably needed in order to be serious title contenders next year. The youngster is still very inexperienced at the highest level and can sometimes make rash decisions, as shown by his poor error in April last year which gifted Fernando Torres a goal and Atletico Madrid victory.
Lots of potential
Having signed for United, the Ivorian will need to be given the time to continue improving his game and to come to terms with playing for one of the world's biggest clubs. That said, Bailly’s potential cannot be questioned and, having finally made an impact in La Liga last season after nearly five years in Spain, he could develop into a top player and be United’s defensive rock for many years.
Will Bailly make a smooth transition from La Liga to the Premier League? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!