Eric Bailly is officially Jose Mourinho’s first signing in his reign as the new Manchester United boss. But who is Eric Bailly?
Eric Bailly is a 22-year old Ivory Coast defender who has played the last two seasons at one of the best Spanish clubs in La Liga, Villarreal, under one of the best current world football managers, Marcelino. Bailly really only broke onto the scene this past season in 2015-16, but has since become a phenom and a highly sought after footballer. Here are five things you need to know about Manchester United’s latest signing, Eric Bailly.
5. He rarely makes mistakes
Eric Bailly is not prone to errors. While Chris Smalling was spectacular at the back for Manchester United in 2015-16, Daley Blind wasn’t exactly a natural partner and struggled to cope with his new position at times, making 4 defensive errors over the course of the season. Bailly only made 2 defensive errors in in 2015-16, and with his strength and mobility, he’ll be a natural partner for Smalling at the back. The central defender was a key reason as to why Villarreal kept 17 clean sheets in 2015-16, conceding just 35 goals in 38 matches as he was one of their most reliable performers, forming a steady partnership at the back with Victor Ruiz. Bailly is not prone to errors and his no-nonsense approach to defending will certainly help United next season.
4. He commits fouls often
Although this is a little contrary to number five, his excessive fouling often does get him into trouble. The Ivory Coast defender committed 35 fouls in 25 La Liga games this season and although that’s not as bad as many other players, it’s 7 more than Daley Blind committed in 35 games. The 22-year old also picked up 10 yellow cards and one red in those 25 matches; which was only a slightly better return than his 2014-15 record in which he picked up 5 yellow cards in 10 La Liga matches and was sent off in his first ever Europa League game. Although he doesn’t make too many defensive mistakes, his rash tackling and constant fouling will get Manchester United into trouble this season and is something that he’ll have to work on as he develops his game.
3. He’s a regular for the Ivory Coast
Ever since breaking into the Villarreal side in 2014-15, Eric Bailly has been a regular for his national team. The tough central defender made his debut at the start of 2015 at the African Cup of Nations, and despite being the youngest player they had in their squad, he appeared in all six matches during the competition, proving to be one of their most integral players as they were crowned champions. Since then he has gone on to make nine more appearances and has hardly missed a beat for his nation.
2. He knocked better players out of the Villarreal side
Before the start of the 2015-16 season, Mateo Musacchio was a regular for Villarreal and was impressing so much that he was starting to get calls for Argentina’s national team. But ever since Eric Bailly broke onto the scene though, Musacchio has struggled to get into the side and had to settle for just 19 first-team appearances in 2015-16, compared to Bailly’s 34 in all competitions. The stats also don’t lie and suggest that Bailly was in fact better than Musacchio in 2015-16, making more tackles per game, passes per game and clearances per game and winning signifcantly more duels in the air in all competitions. Bailly will be looking to do the exact same thing in 2016-17 as he fights for his place in an already unstable Manchester United back line.
1. He’s an absolute rock at the back
At 6’1, 170 pounds, Eric Bailly is incredibly strong and incredibly difficult to knock off the ball. In contrast, Blind weighs 158 pounds and Smalling who is 6’3, weighs just 8 pounds more than Bailly. With his strength, speed and ability to get the ball out of danger, he will provide Manchester United with a Vincent Kompany-esque no-nonsense approach to defending. He’ll use his strength to knock opponents off the ball, his height to win balls in the air and then he’ll do everything to clear the ball away from the danger zone. He’s an absolute rock at the back and will provide some much needed reinforcement to the Manchester United back-line.
Eric Bailly is an excellent signing for Manchester United and if Jose Mourinho is smart, he’ll bring the Ivory Coast international right into the lineup for the very first game. Although the £30 million fee is a hefty one, being at the age of just 22, he could become one of the best defenders in world football down the road and certainly should prove to be a very important player to Manchester United’s defense in both the present and future.