There seems to be a purpose and plan behind Manchester United’s transfer policy this summer. None of these last minute desperate deals that marked the David Moyes and Louis van Gaal era’s.
United have already wrapped up former PSG star Zlatan Ibrahimović, to be announced in early July, and have now completed a £30m deal for Villarreal’s highly-rated centre-back Eric Bailly.
The 22-year-old, has been monitored closely by Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Arsenal in recent seasons Bcan play anywhere in defence but is most comfortable as a centre-back.
United are expected to pay £18m up front with £12m in bonus payments. That is a huge profit for Villarreal, who paid only £4m for the defender in 2104 when they signed him from Espanyol.
On signing for United, Bailly said:
“It is a dream come true to be joining Manchester United. To play football at the highest level is all I have ever wanted to do.”
He added: “I want to progress to be the best that I can be and I believe working with Jose Mourinho will help me develop in the right way and at the right club. I am looking forward to meeting my new team-mates and to starting this new chapter of my life.”
Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, said:
“Eric is a young central defender with great natural talent. He has progressed well to date and has the potential to become one of the best around. We look forward to working with him to help nurture that raw talent and fulfil his potential. Eric is at the right club to continue his development.”
Bailly was the key man in a Villarreal defence that kept 17 clean sheets in La Liga this season to secure fourth place as best of the rest behind champions Barcelona and Champions League finalists Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
His displays in the big games will have particularly impressed Mourinho. Villarreal were the only team to shut out Atletico twice over the campaign with Bailly at the forefront of both their 1-0 win at home and a 0-0 stalemate at the Vicente Calderon.
However, his standout display in a yellow shirt came against the newly crowned European champions in the match widely seen as that which sealed Rafael Benitez’s fate in his short-lived reign as Real Madrid boss.
Again Bailly was brilliant and showed his versatility as he was deployed at right back to mark Cristiano Ronaldo and latterly Gareth Bale out the game despite suffering from a dislocated shoulder for much of the second-half as Villarreal ran out 1-0 winners.
It was no coincidence that he was absent as Villarreal’s hopes of reaching a first ever European final were dashed as Liverpool ran riot in the second-leg of their Europa League semi-final last month.
Marcelino’s men had kept five clean sheets in the seven European games Bailly played on their run to the last four, including a 1-0 win over the reds before he pulled up with a hamstring injury late on which ruled him out of the return-leg.
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.