MANCHESTER: Highly-rated Ivory Coast centre-back Eric Bailly became Jose Mourinho’s first signing for Manchester United on Wednesday from Spanish outfit Villarreal.
The 22-year-old — a 2015 Africa Cup of Nations winner — signed a four year contract subject to being granted a work permit and will cost a reported £30 million (38.4 million euros, $43.7 million).
Bailly, who moved to Spain aged just 17 when he joined Espanyol, impressed last season as Villarreal conceded just 35 goals in 38 league matches and also reached the Europa League semi-finals.
“Eric is a young central defender with great natural talent,” purred Mourinho, who replaced Louis van Gaal last month after the Dutchman failed to qualify United for next season’s Champions League.
“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,” added Mourinho, who previously has gained a reputation for not bringing on young talent.
Bailly, capped 15 times by the ‘Elephants’, said working with Mourinho would be crucial to his developing into a better player.
“It is a dream come true to be joining Manchester United,” said Bailly, whose contract includes an option to extend it by two years.
“To play football at the highest level is all I have ever wanted to do.
“I want to progress to be the best that I can be and I believe working with Jose Mourinho will help me develop in the right way and at the right club.
“I am looking forward to meeting my new team mates and to starting this new chapter of my life,” added Bailly who scored one of the spot-kicks in Ivory Coast’s penalty shootout win over Ghana at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
Bailly — who cost Villarreal just £4.4 million when he joined from Espanyol last year — will have to work on his discipline on the pitch as he was booked 10 times last term and sent off once.
It had been widely-thought that veteran Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be Mourinho’s first signing.
Ibrahimovic has been linked with a move to United — having left French champions Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season just finished — as he enjoyed a good relationship with Mourinho at Italians Inter Milan.
However, the 34-year-old — presently in training with the Swedish squad for Euro 2016 — has toyed with questioners who have asked him if he was joining United.