The transfer season is alive and kicking now with teams in England starting to flex their financial muscle – signing players left, right and centre which has already seen a couple of big moves from abroad.
Manchester United, under Jose Mourinho are in the mix too and they seem to have a well defined plan this season unlike in recent years, especially when it comes to recruitment – which has certainly let them down in some cases, contributing to their current plight. The Portuguese manager, known for his resourcefulness and the inherent ability to build a winning side in a short space of time – looks to improve the spine of the team, something he should have been working on, in all these months rather secretively.
The latest news from the Spanish media outlet AS suggest that United could be bolstering their defence by signing 22-year old Ivory Coast international Eric Bailly from Spanish side Villarreal for an estimated fee of £30m. It has raised several eyebrows and quite understandably so – as one would consider bringing in a relatively young and inexperienced defender to England to improve a back four that lacks serious world class talent, at least at the moment, naive or well, an educated gamble.
But the good news is, it could be the latter and there’s every possibility that Bailly could turn out to be as influential as any at United in the new season as Manchester United were not the only ones interested in acquiring his services. There’s been speculation that Pep Guardiola wanted him to be a part of his revolution at the Etihad. Although, that has supposedly waned leaving United’s path clear, there must be something about him that could potentially have earned him a huge move to England.
Of course, comparing the numbers with United’s centre-halves who could be his likely teammates and competitors in the future, for a 22-year old in his first season at a new club, Eric has managed to outstrip almost everyone except Chris Smalling, hands down their best defender for the last two seasons. Although, several relevant variables should be factored in while comparing two footballers to (quality/physicality of the league etc) come to a definitive conclusion but it’s not science, is it?
Looking at the numbers, it is easy to see why he is seen as a young, promising footballer with bags of potential but also someone who could be nasty and ill-disciplined at times. But if he could carry his imposing physique in a manner that intimidates forwards – in aerial duels and one versus one situations, Premier League could well be the place for him to showcase his mettle and grow into what he wants to become. The Ivory Coast defender has won 32 tackles this season with a success rate of 48%. He has also made 65 interceptions, 120 clearances and 16 blocks – playing a vital role in Villarreal finishing in one of the Champions League spots.
The two other upsides to signing him are that he is so very young, quick for a centre-back – at 22, he could be five times the player he is now in three years – especially under a manager like Jose Mourinho who could galvanise sides with his aura and winning mentality that he has instilled in every team he has managed. Also, for his age, his versatility could be a vital asset. Known to play in every position at the back for Villarreal and Espanyol – he has actually done it and shown he could play at right-back or left-back and not look out of place which might come in handy at United with their history of injuries, particularly in the last three seasons.
His relative inexperience and the evident streak of nastiness and the faster paced football could be the few early stumbling blocks for him to overcome but if he can do that, he should be crucial to United in the coming years, who, after all their previous errors in the transfer window, look to have learned and are finally looking focused very early to get Mourinho what he wants before it’s too late. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic already waiting in the wings to put pen on paper and a few others strongly linked including this raw 22-year old, it could quickly turn out to be a transfer window to remember.