Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up
NBCSports Header Logo

Manchester United signs Eric Bailly from Villarreal

Club Atletico de Madrid v Villarreal CF - La Liga

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 21: Eric Bailly of Villarreal CF takes the ball from Antoine Greizmann of Club Atletico de Madrid during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Villarreal CF at Vicente Calderon Stadium on February 21, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Jose Mourinho’s first big transfer as boss of Manchester United is a center back.

Eric Bailly, 22, is joining the Premier League mainstays from Villarreal, and has signed a four-year deal. Terms were not released, but reports say the fee could rise as high as $44 million. That would make him United’s most expensive defensive signing ever, passing Rio Ferdinand.

[ USMNT-CRC: Match recap | 3 things | Player ratings ]

The 15-times capped Ivorian played in the nation’s Africa Cup of Nations win in 2015, and made 35 appearances for Villarreal last season. Bailly went 76 minutes in the Europa League semifinals’ 1-0 win over Liverpool, missing the 3-0 second leg loss with thigh problems.

Bailly calls joining the team a “dream come true”. As for Mourinho, here are his thoughts from

Mourinho said: “Eric is a young central defender with great natural talent. 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.”

Bailly had the most 1v1 success of any defender on Villarreal, despite playing 800-plus minutes less than his two closest competitors, and played relatively error free ball. Given his young age and position, this could be a coup (even at the price) for United.

Follow @NicholasMendola