Manchester United have completed the signing of Eric Bailly on a four-year deal with the option of a further two, subject to a work permit.
The Ivorian international joins from Spanish side Villarreal CF and becomes new manager Jose Mourinho’s first signing in charge of the club.
After 25 appearances in La Liga last season, Bailly helped secure Champions League football for his former club, whilst impressing in clean sheets against testing opposition such as Liverpool, Real Madrid and twice versus Atletico Madrid.
The centre-back also made seven Europa League appearances as Villarreal notably knocked out Napoli, Bayer Leverkusen and Sparta Prague on their way to the semi-finals.
This experience will prove invaluable as United enter the competition at the group stage for the first time since its rebranding in 2009.
Aggressive in the tackle, good in the air, and a tall presence at the back at 6’2, Bailly fits the profile of a Mourinho-type central defender.
The Portuguese coach signed unknown talents such as Raphael Varane and Kurt Zouma at previous clubs Real Madrid and Chelsea respectively, developing them into two of the most coveted defenders in world football despite their raw age.
Bailly himself only turned 22 in April, with Mourinho capable of turning the versatile talent into one of the best in his position in time to come, with his versatility stemming from the ability to play at both full-back positions if needs be.
He may be unknown to most, but so was Nemanja Vidic, and look how he turned out.
Weaknesses in his game include rash challenges and poor discipline, but this improved throughout the second half of last season, where he kept the experienced Daniele Bonera out of Marcelino’s line-up for the majority of the season.
Making his international debut for the Ivory Coast in January 2015, Bailly was included in their 23-man squad for the African Cup of Nations later that month.
He featured in all six matches, as Côte d’Ivoire lifted their second crown, defeating Ghana on penalties in the final, and has a total of 15 caps to his name.
Despite being just 20 at the time, Bailly showed his composure by converting his spot-kick during sudden death in the shootout.
This does, however, present an issue, with the competition taking place during the regular club season, as 2017’s addition takes place from January 17 – February 8.
The likelihood of Mourinho signing another centre-half thus increases, with murmurs that an experienced player in this position will be brought in to accompany Bailly and Chris Smalling at the back.
His move to Old Trafford means that he will be able to report for pre-season duty come early July, where he will meet up with those not involved in the European Championships before heading to China for a two-game tour.
Spanish experts Guillem Balague and Graham Hunter have praised the signing having watched him regularly during his time in Spain.
This deal was confirmed on June 8, highlighting Mourinho’s desire to conclude his transfers early, with reports suggesting that there is the will to complete business before August 7’s Community Shield date with Leicester City at Wembley.
Mourinho’s history of quick-fire and under the radar signings is there to see, with Bailly following suit at his new home, whilst becoming the first Ivorian to wear the red of United.
We wish Bailly success at the club, and look forward to seeing him in action.