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Eric Bailly, the greatest Eric since the King

The Ivorian has had quite a short career so far, but a very eye-catching one. It was a frustrating start for Eric Bailly in Europe as he was forced onto the sidelines for 10 months, awaiting a work permit. He spent a campaign with Espanyol B before being promoted to the first team in the 2014/15 season. He’d only made a handful appearances for Espanyol but was already catching the eye of potential suitors. After a short and impressive stint in Catalonia, he also had an impressive showing in the African Cup of Nations, playing in all six matches as Ivory Coast were crowned champions. Villarreal liked what they saw and swooped for Bailly in January 2015, to replace Arsenal-bound, Gabriel Paulista.

In the 2015/16 La Liga season, Bailly was ever-present for the Yellow Submarine. They led La Liga for the first time for a very brief period, they finished the season in fourth place, qualifying for the UEFA Champions League qualification stage. That season, Villarreal also reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League, losing to Liverpool.

After a short and impressive stint in Spain, United made their move in a reported £30 million deal, Jose Mourinho’s first signing at Manchester United was done. Bailly made a great start at United starring in the FA Community Shield victory over Leicester City and the first game of the Premier League season against Bournemouth, where he was named the Man of the Match in both games, he was also voted United’s Player of the Month for August.

Unfortunately, Bailly suffered a bad knee injury in the 4-0 defeat at Chelsea, with that injury and him playing in the African Cup of Nations, his first season at Old Trafford became a bit stop-start. However, he’s back fit now and is showing the promise he did at the start of the season with some really solid displays. The centre back partnership with Marcos Rojo, a player who’s improved greatly this year, was looking great, until Rojo suffered a serious knee ligament injury, against Anderlecht in the Europa League.

Eric Bailly’s strengths; the Ivorian has got a real upside to his game, he’s good in the air, strong, quick, strong in the tackle, making him a good fit for the demands of the Premier League, he settled in really quickly. He possesses impressive mental attributes too, his positioning is good, often makes crucial interceptions, he’s composed, and has also looked calm passing the ball out the back, he never panics.

In Spain, one criticism of his was that he could be a little rash, he got a red card in his Europa League debut for Villarreal against Sevilla, and one in La Liga against Celta Vigo, his only two red cards in Spanish football, he also got sent off for United against Saint-Etienne in the Europa League. This is normal with young defenders though, easy to forget he hasn’t had a long time in European football and is still inexperienced, the style of defender he is will always accumulate cards and working with a top manager like Jose Mourinho, I’m sure he’ll iron that out.

In summary, Bailly is improving all the time, you can see his progression when he’s been a regular, looks a real good addition, hopefully, he can stay injury free, as we’ve seen with Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Luke Shaw, injuries have slowed their progression down and in the case of Jones and Smalling perhaps they haven’t turned out as good as we once hoped. Eric Bailly looks to be a great signing and has all the tools to be a great United centre-half in the coming years. The greatest Eric since the King.

Written by Anthony Bennett

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