Eric Bailly: A Forceful Defender with a Storied Career


Eric Bailly, the Ivorian colossus, has carved a name for himself in European football with his tenacious defending and aggressive style. Currently plying his trade for Villarreal CF in La Liga, Bailly boasts a career spanning across Spain, England, Turkey, and his national team, Ivory Coast. This article delves into the journey of this versatile defender, exploring his highs and lows, playing style, and what the future holds for him.

Eric Bailly

From Espanyol Youth to La Liga Debut: Early Days in Spain

Born in 1994 in Bingerville, Ivory Coast, Bailly’s footballing journey began at the tender age of 17 when he joined the youth academy of Spanish club RCD Espanyol. He impressed quickly, rising through the ranks and graduating to the B team in 2013. His talent didn’t go unnoticed, and he earned a promotion to the senior team just a year later, making his La Liga debut in the 2014-15 season.

While his appearances were limited in his first season, his potential was evident. His raw athleticism, strong tackling, and ability to read the game made him a defensive prospect to watch.

Rise to Prominence: Manchester United and a Premier League Dream

Bailly’s impressive displays at Espanyol caught the eye of several top European clubs. In the summer of 2016, Manchester United, under the management of Jose Mourinho, secured his signing for a reported fee of £30 million. This move thrust Bailly onto the world stage of the Premier League.

He quickly established himself as a key figure in United’s defense, forming a formidable partnership with Chris Smalling. His aggressive tackling style and ability to win aerial duels made him a nightmare for opposing attackers. He was a crucial part of the Manchester United team that won the FA Community Shield and the EFL Cup in his debut season.

However, Bailly’s career at United wasn’t without its challenges. Inconsistency in his performances and a propensity for picking up yellow and red cards hampered his progress. Additionally, injuries disrupted his rhythm, preventing him from establishing himself as an undisputed starter.

Despite these struggles, Bailly remained a fan favorite for his passionate playing style and commitment on the field. He played a pivotal role in Manchester United’s run to the 2017 Europa League final, showcasing his defensive prowess on the biggest stage.

Loan Spells and a Fresh Start: Marseille, Besiktas, and Villarreal

After falling out of favor under new managers at Manchester United, Bailly was loaned out to Olympique de Marseille in Ligue 1 for the 2022-23 season. While his time at Marseille was marred by a red card and a lengthy suspension, he displayed glimpses of his former brilliance.

In January 2024, Bailly’s loan spell at Marseille was cut short, and he was loaned again, this time to Turkish club Besiktas. However, his stay in Turkey was brief, lasting only until the end of the season.

Finally, in the summer of 2024, Bailly found a new permanent home at Villarreal CF in La Liga, marking a return to the Spanish league where his career began. This move reunited him with Unai Emery, a manager who knows him well from their time together at Villarreal during Bailly’s early days.

Playing Style: A Forceful Defender with Room for Refinement

Bailly’s playing style is characterized by his physicality, aggression, and aerial dominance. He is a strong tackler who is not afraid to get stuck in and win the ball. His pace allows him to recover quickly and close down attackers. Standing at 6ft 2in, he is a formidable presence in the air, winning most aerial duels with ease.

However, his aggressive approach can sometimes lead to rash challenges and unnecessary fouls, resulting in yellow and red cards. Additionally, his positional awareness and decision-making can be inconsistent at times.

Overall, Bailly is a talented defender with all the tools to be a world-class player. Refining his decision-making and reducing the number of fouls would take his game to the next level.

International Career: A Mainstay for Ivory Coast

Bailly is a vital member of the Ivory Coast national team, having made his debut in 2014. He has played a key role in the team’s recent success, helping them qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations on multiple occasions.

His leadership and experience at the back are invaluable for the Ivorian defense. He is a role model for younger players and is expected to continue to be a key figure for the national team in the coming years.


Q: Where was Eric Bailly born?

A: Eric Bailly was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on April 12, 1994.

Q: How did Eric Bailly start his football career?

A: Bailly’s journey began at a young age, playing on local pitches in Abidjan. At 13, he made a big decision to leave school and pursue football full-time. This gamble paid off when he was invited to a tournament in Burkina Faso at 16, where he impressed scouts and earned a move to Spanish club Espanyol.

Q: Which clubs did Eric Bailly play for before Manchester United?

A: Before joining Manchester United in 2016, Bailly played for Espanyol’s B team and then the senior side in La Liga.

Q: When did Eric Bailly join Manchester United?

A: Bailly signed for Manchester United in June 2016 for a reported fee of £30 million.

Q: What was Eric Bailly’s impact at Manchester United?

A: Bailly quickly established himself as a fan favorite at Old Trafford. His aggressive tackling style and ability to read the game brought stability to the United defense. He played a key role in their Europa League win in 2017.

Q: Why did Eric Bailly leave Manchester United?

A: Injuries hampered Bailly’s progress at Manchester United. After several loan spells, his contract expired in 2023, and he left the club on a free transfer.

Q: Which clubs did Eric Bailly play for on loan from Manchester United?

A: During his time at Manchester United, Bailly had loan spells at French club Marseille in the 2022-23 season and Turkish club Besiktas in the first half of the 2023-24 season.

Q: Where is Eric Bailly playing now?

A: After his loan spell at Besiktas ended, Bailly joined Spanish club Villarreal on a free transfer in January 2024.

Q: What is Eric Bailly’s playing style?

A: Bailly is known for his aggressive tackling, aerial dominance, and ability to make crucial interceptions. He is a strong and pacy defender, comfortable playing on the left or right side of the central defense.

Q: Does Eric Bailly play for the Ivory Coast national team?

A: Yes, Bailly is a regular for the Ivory Coast national team. He has represented his country at the Africa Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup.

Q: What is Eric Bailly’s nickname?

A: Bailly is nicknamed “The Rock” for his tough tackling style and strong presence on the pitch.

Q: Did you find anything interesting about Eric Bailly that surprised you?

A: In a 2019 article for The Players’ Tribune, Bailly shared a story about his early career. He revealed his father’s initial disapproval of his football dreams and how a single performance changed his father’s perspective.

To read more, Click here

About the author


Add Comment

Get in touch

Content and images available on this website is supplied by contributors. As such we do not hold or accept liability for the content, views or references used. For any complaints please contact Use of this website signifies your agreement to our terms of use. We do our best to ensure that all information on the Website is accurate. If you find any inaccurate information on the Website please us know by sending an email to and we will correct it, where we agree, as soon as practicable. We do not accept liability for any user-generated or user submitted content – if there are any copyright violations please notify us at – any media used will be removed providing proof of content ownership can be provided. For any DMCA requests under the digital millennium copyright act Please contact: with the subject DMCA Request.