Eric Bailly appeared to be tailor-made for the Premier League when he joined Manchester United from Villarreal two-and-a-half years ago.
Powerful, fast and strong in the air, the Ivory Coast defender was Jose Mourinho’s first signing at Old Trafford for a good reason.
The £30 million recruit has suffered 12 injuries since arriving in England to all but derail his chances of establishing himself as a first-choice centre-back.
Bailly’s nadir as a Red Devil arguably came when Mourinho opted to substitute him 19 minutes into their 3-2 comeback win against Newcastle United in October.
Since then, though, the 24-year-old has made only a single appearance for his club.
His 90-minute display at home to Arsenal last Saturday was just the third time he’s been afforded a complete runout in the Premier League this season.
In late November, Mourinho insisted Bailly’s lasting absence was down to a combination of him wanting and being forced to experiment with his options at the back.
“The situation is that we have five central defenders,” Mourinho said, per Manchester Evening News.
“And it’s a little bit difficult to find the best combination, not just related to their qualities but also related with the injury situation.”
Little has changed in that regard, which is perhaps why Valencia boss Marcelino - who’s preparing his men to face United on Wednesday - feels such sympathy for Bailly.
The Brazilian bought him for Villarreal from Espanyol in 2015 and moulded him into a formidable albeit raw defender.
He then left two months after the English giants swooped for Bailly in June 2016.
Reflecting on the recent woes of his former player, Marcelino claims to understand the impact they’d be having on him.
“I was so lucky to have Eric as a footballer, as a player. He’s an extraordinary player and an extraordinary person,” Marcelino said at his pre-match media conference, per Manchester Evening News.
“I’m so sorry for his injuries, because I know his performances are conditioned by this.
“I know he is having a hard time and suffering when trying to have a stable rhythm in the team.
“I wish nothing but the best for him and I feel his youth will help him through these hard times and he will be very important for United.
“I think he’s playing really well for United when he plays, but because of his injuries he’s not getting the luck he deserves.”
While Bailly can be a source of frustration among United fans, few would write him off as a complete waste of space.
The Ivorian has all the qualities required to succeed in the Premier League - he just needs to stay fit.