Mourinho tips new boy Bailly to join world's elite defenders
Jose Mourinho tipped Eric Bailly to become one of the world's best defenders after making the centre-half his first signing as Manchester United manager.
United are thought to have paid Villarreal about £30.4m for Bailly, subject to the player being granted a work permit, in a bold first move in the transfer market by Mourinho, given the Ivory Coast defender's inexperience and sudden emergence.
The 22-year-old has signed a four-year contract, and there is an option to extend the deal by two years.
Bailly made just five appearances for Espanyol before joining Villarreal for £4.4m in January last year; since then he made 47 appearances and won admirers for his speed and strength.
He has also established himself as a regular for Ivory Coast and helped them win the Africa Cup of Nations last year, but his arrival will place a heavy emphasis on Chris Smalling to lead the defence, with Luke Shaw (20) and Timothy Fosu-Mensah (18) likely to be Mourinho's first choice full-backs.
Mourinho has backed Bailly to repay his faith and the move is an early riposte to suggestions the Portuguese is wary of blooding youth.
"Eric is a young central defender with great natural talent," Mourinho said. "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."
The arrival of Bailly would appear to clear the way for Manchester City and Chelsea to fight it out for Everton defender John Stones, with United believed to have baulked at the £50m asking price. (© Daily Telegraph, London)