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Manchester United in talks with Villarreal’s Eric Bailly?

In the dawn of a new era at Old Trafford, changes seem to be occurring at an incredible rate. Newly appointed United manager Jose Mourinho is already making his changes at the club, with managerial staff, squad promotions, presumably sales and now he looks to be completing some deals for players joining the club. News that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is on his way to Manchester has largely overshadowed the news of an arguably even more exciting deal; one that would see Villarreal starlet Eric Bailly joining United this summer. Bailly’s impressive run in La Liga is reportedly attracting interest from United, as well as Manchester City, Barcelona, and Paris Saint-Germain.

Bailly’s defensive numbers for Villarreal this season have been relatively impressive, as the Villarreal defender has averaged 1.7 tackles and 2.4 interceptions per game. His WhoScored rating in the Europa League, 7.13, is impressive. Bailly would most likely come in as a backup for either Daley Blind and Chris Smalling or whoever Mourinho may look to bring into the club. The transfer is reportedly for a fee in the region of £15 million with clauses that could see the deal reaching double the initial fee. United’s intent to finally purchase a centre-back is enjoyable to see, but Bailly is probably not of starting quality for United yet. For the fee touted, Bailly would have to be an incredibly low-risk transfer deal, because the drawbacks are obvious.

That being said, Bailly has all the tools required to become a solid defender in the Premier League. United fans who watch Villarreal regularly seem excited about his arrival, and he has already drawn comparisons to once doubted fan-favourite Anthony Martial, who moved to United under similar circumstances. Evidently, Bailly is moving at age 22 compared to Martial’s moving age of 19, but the comparisons are easy to understand.

Bailly’s move has some interesting implications for United’s current squad as well. It is inferable that Bailly will be a backup central defender for United, which means his move could spark a departure for one of United’s centre-backs. Phil Jones had a treacherous season for United, barely playing all season because of countless injuries. This isn’t the first time United has had this problem with Jones; he has never sustained a fully fit season since he joined in 2011, and his progress has stunted as a result. Marcos Rojo appeared to be progressing excellently in his first season at United, but, after Luke Shaw’s injury, Rojo was moved to left-back and has since endured a poor season. He seems to lack the quality to be at United, and he had some disciplinary problems in the summer before the season, which is a shame because it seemed he and Smalling would become the club’s primary centre-back duo.

If Bailly replaces Jones or Rojo, he could prove to be a quietly astute signing for United. The potential for Bailly to become a world class player is well-documented, and he has been a stalwart for Villarreal ever since he replaced Gabriel Paulista in 2015 (Paulista joined Arsenal). Signing Ibrahimovic and Bailly would seem to represent a good balance. In these two players, United would have an experienced forward and a youthful defender, both of whom could help United’s aerial problems that cost them the vital match at Upton Park in May. With all the changes going on at United, it would be no surprise to see Bailly and Ibrahimovic sparking a mini-exodus around Old Trafford.

Written by Aaron Moniz

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