Jose Mourinho says new signing can become one of world's best centre-backs

Eric Bailly
Eric Bailly

Jose Mourinho was full of praise for new Manchester United signing Eric Bailly, the first player to join the club since the Portuguese took charge.

Manchester United have announced the signing of centre-half Eric Bailly from Villarreal.

The defender joins the Old Trafford club on a four-year contract, which includes an option to extend that period by another two years.

The 22-year-old spoke to the club's official website in the wake of his transfer:

"It is a dream come true to be joining Manchester United. 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."

Mourinho, meanwhile, was quick to praise his first signing as United boss while suggesting that he can achieve great things in football:

"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."

Still something of a raw talent, Bailly has impressed at Villarreal since his move from Espanyol in January 2015, with links to a Premier League club refusing to disperse over the first half of 2016.

The defender made 25 La Liga appearances in a 2015/16 campaign that saw the Yellow Submarines, who finished fourth, concede the fourth lowest league tally with 35 - just one more goal let in than Real Madrid.

The move for Bailly suggests that Mourinho has signed up to a continuation of the club's policy of trying to capture the best young players in the game.

Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial are two big-name signings that arrived at United with big transfer fees in recent years, with the club hoping their investment in youthful talent will reap long-term rewards.

Bailly is another player who fits into that mould, with his powerful presence alongside possible defensive partner Chris Smalling set to give Mourinho a more mobile defensive line than the one Louis van Gaal was operating with in a season that ended with him being sacked by United.

Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks set to be a marquee signing for Mourinho in the near future but United are keen to ensure they do not divert away from their policy of investing in potential.

Bailly's signature is the first sign that the club will stick to this policy, despite the fact that many of the former Chelsea boss' detractors suggest that he is slow to give youth a chance.