Quick, powerful and composed, Eric Bailly has become José Mourinho's first signing as Manchester United coach – UEFA.com takes a close look at the former Villarreal centre-back.
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Ivory Coast international Eric Bailly has been confirmed as José Mourinho's first signing since becoming Manchester United manager, the Red Devils reaching an agreement with Villarreal to bring the 22-year-old to Old Trafford for a reported €38m. UEFA.com charts the young centre-back's rapid rise.
Eric Bailly has a habit of making good first impressions. It took just one trial game for him to be snapped up by Espanyol aged 16, and four Liga starts later he was called up by Ivory Coast for their 2015 Africa Cup of Nations squad. With only two friendlies under his belt ahead of the finals, he then played every match en route to the trophy.
Villarreal were watching the tournament in pursuit of a replacement for Arsenal-bound Gabriel Paulista and liked what they saw, prising him from Espanyol for €5.7m despite his limited experience. Yet the Yellow Submarine are renowned for developing young players and Bailly excelled in his 18 months there, helping them to a top-four finish in 2015/16.
They say …
"His talent stood out straight away. Eric is strong, very strong. He was very aggressive, good in the air and could use both feet. He's fast and excellent in one-on-ones."
Manolo Márquez, former Espanyol B coach
"For me he's a spectacular player and I believe in his potential. He has all the tools to be an excellent Liga player."
Sergio González, former Espanyol coach
Playing style ...
Standing 1.87m tall, Bailly is a powerful, pacy stopper with remarkable ability on the ball, frequently playing out from the back and looking to contribute to his team's supply line. He has an impressive reading of the game, meaning he rarely has to dive in. He can fill in at full-back too given his speed and ball skills, though he is more at home in the heart of defence.
Shades of …
Bailly is Manchester United's most expensive defender since Rio Ferdinand, and the Ivorian certainly shares the same level of confidence on the ball as the former England man. United have struggled to replace the brilliant partnership Ferdinand had with Nemanja Vidić between 2006 and 2014, and will hope Bailly can build a similar understanding with Chris Smalling.
Breakthrough moment ...
Despite being the second-youngest player in the squad, Bailly played every match of the Ivory Coast's 2015 Africa Cup of Nations triumph, delivering a commanding display in the final to help shut out Ghana, who had boasted the strongest attack in the competition. Bailly also coolly converted his spot kick in the shoot-out as Ivory Coast won their first continental title in 23 years.