Connect in the back of the net

Reports of José Mourinho making Villarreal defender Eric Bailly his first signing at Manchester Untied started doing rounds yesterday. There were rumours that Manchester United were willing to pay up to £30m to land the defender.

United are reported to be offering £15 million up front, but the number of performance related clauses could mean that the final fee would be almost double that amount. While Villarreal haven’t accepted that yet, they are still negotiating which indicates they won’t be opposed to seeing the talented defender leave for that kind of a sum.

Leicester, Arsenal and even Manchester City have been linked with the player in the past. Manchester City, however, have turned their attention to Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte.


Gabriel replacement

Bailly joined Villarreal for a sum around £4m in January 2015 as a replacement for Gabriel Paulista, who joined Arsenal. He moved to Spain in 2007 and came up Espanyol’s youth ranks. He only played 5 league games for the Catalan side before joining Villarreal for whom played 35 games.

In 2015, he featured in every game or Ivory Coast as the side won the Africa Cup of Nations. His good performances earned him the call by Villarreal in the same month as they understood the youngster could be an able replacement for Gabriel.

Bailly wasn’t going to be used right away, but Mateo Musacchio’s injury gave him the opportunity to become a regular fixture at the back.

He was the key man in a Villarreal defence that kept 17 clean sheets in La Liga this season to secure fourth place.


Qualities and weaknesses

He is strong at the back and is good in the air. He is also quick which is so important in modern day football. His speed ensures he tracks back, in case he moves forward with the ball, and he can make the recovery tackles whenever need be.

Young players, mostly defenders, are so often positionally lost but Bailly’s positioning is very solid. He averaged 2.9 interceptions every 90 minutes in the league last season.

The Ivorian still needs to improve in some departments. His passing can be better, but that is something he can learn with time and already is as his on-the-ball skills are improving with every game.

Bailly is of course very raw and can make errors as he doesn’t have enough experience in the top flight. It will be a massive move for him, if he ends up signing for José Mourinho.

He has demonstrated the willingness to learn quickly from his mistakes and his mentality is great. Bailly has the technical qualities to become a really solid defender, with the right guidance.


Move to United would be massive

A move to Manchester United will be a massive achievement for anyone and will only be another step in the meteoric rise of the youngster whose career began very slowly, waiting for a work permit for nearly a year at Espanyol after arriving as a 17-year-old, and then waiting another two years to break into the first team.


Written by Aakriti Mehrotra

Follow Aakriti on Twitter @Aakriti1

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