Villarreal have sold young Ivorian defender Eric Bailly to Manchester United. The fee was not officially announced by Villarreal, but reliable sources say it was €35 million now, with incentive clauses potentially providing another €5m or more. I would assume there's a sell-on clause as well.
Not all of that money comes to Villarreal, of course, the player's agent gets some, Espanyol gets some, etc. but still, it's an incredible profit for a €5.5m investment made 18 months ago.
Is Bailly worth it? Absolutely. He still makes youthful mistakes sometimes, and has to learn to play through injuries without losing focus. But that's something he will learn with experience. What can't be taught is the raw talent, the athleticism, the strength. The man is a beast, in the best sense of the word. He'll take some time to get used to the EPL and to Man United, but I suspect he will be one of the world's best center backs.
Villarreal is--of course--sorry to lose him. It turns out Borussia Dortmund approached us initially, offering €25m, but then Manchester United stepped in and made it clear they were willing to go quite a bit higher to obtain Eric's services. The deal is done, subject only to Bailly obtaining a work permit, which should not be an issue for a player of his caliber.
My memory of Eric Bailly will be one I wasn't able to capture on camera, my batteries having run out, but happened at Anfield. As you recall, he didn't play there, having suffered a hamstring injury. After the match, the support from the Villarreal supporters, including me, was incredible. We clapped and cheered, the Liverpool fans closest to us clapped and cheered us, we cheered them, we cheered our players, obviously disappointed. At first the players came over and clapped us back, then some stayed around to toss their shirts to the front rows. I believe Denis Suarez was first to do that.
Bailly had walked down the ground to the end where we were and also clapped and thanked the support--he was in streetclothes, and decided hey, I will give someone my shirt too! So some lucky Villarreal supporter has a new long-sleeved off-white shirt, courtesy of Eric Bailly!
Good luck, Eric. Thanks for the memories, and thanks for the profit. Now it's up to Villarreal to invest those funds wisely.