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Manchester United signing Eric Bailly: 5 things to know about the Villarreal star

Eric Bailly
Eric Bailly could be set to join Manchester United.

Eric Bailly has many of the potential qualities that new Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has often favoured in defenders.

The versatile Villarreal star is 6-foot-1, strong and assertive -- which will be useful in the Premier League -- and this season he helped the Spanish club qualify for the Champions League, as they finished fourth, while also reaching the Europa League semifinals.

At the age of 22 and two months, the Ivory Coast defender, who played most often as a centre-back for Villarreal, has plenty of time to develop his attributes further. Here we take a look at five things that you need to know about Bailly as Man United confirm that a deal is in place.


Having been born in Bingerville, the same place as Manchester City striker Wilfried Bony, Bailly's talents were spotted during a youth tournament in Burkina Faso. Although he moved into Espanyol's youth system at the age of 17 and eight months in December 2011, it was 10 months before he received his work permit. It was then another 10 months until he made his first-team debut in October 2014. That first taste of professional football, at the age of 20 years and six months, was a La Liga match against Real Sociedad, which Espanyol won 2-0.


Even in the early stages of his career, after just a handful of league appearances, Bailly was being seen as an exciting prospect for the future, and was quickly called up by Ivory Coast manager Herve Renard. The defender was named in the squad for the 2015 African Nations Cup as an uncapped player, before making his international debut in a friendly against Nigeria in January 2015. Seen as Kolo Toure's successor, he started all six games in the tournament as they went on to be crowned champions of Africa for only the second time in their history. He now has 14 caps for Ivory Coast in total.


Financially challenged Espanyol sold him to Villarreal for only €5.7 million in January 2015, signing a five-year deal with his new club. He was brought in to replace Arsenal-bound Gabriel Paulista and it appears that he filled the boots of the Brazilian very successfully. During the recent 2015-16 season, which was his first full campaign as a first-team regular, he was part of a defence that kept 17 La Liga clean sheets, conceding only 35 goals in 38 games, on the way to finishing fourth behind Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.


Madrid's giants Real and Atletico -- the 2016 Champions League finalists - have both been shown what Bailly has to offer. The player was part of a defence who were the only team to keep clean sheets on two occasions against Atletico during the season -- during a 1-0 win in September, then again in a 0-0 draw in January. It was in December against Real when he really made his mark though, playing at right-back and marshalling Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale impressively in a 1-0 win, despite bravely playing through a shoulder injury.


Manchester City had been linked with a move for Bailly before United became the clear frontrunners for his signature. City's incoming manager Pep Guardiola could have developed his confidence on the ball and technical assets, but his problems with on-field discipline would be a potential issue to monitor for any manager.

He received 10 yellow cards and one red in La Liga last season, but if he can learn to control his temperament then he clearly has the tools to become a top player.

Arindam is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @ARejSport.


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