When Manchester United confirmed that they had signed Eric Bailly from Villareal for a reported fee of around £30m back in the summer of 2016, then Red Devils manager Jose Mourinho could not have spoken more highly of his newest recruit.
He said: “Eric has the potential to become one of the best around.”
Sadly for Mourinho, Bailly and just United fans in general, that statement hasn’t really come to fruition.
The Ivory Coast international’s career at Old Trafford has been plagued by injury after injury, and it’s become more the exception to the rule if he actually does step up on the pitch on a rare occasion.
The big issue now for current United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, is that he has an incredible wealth of options at centre-back. After the big-money signing of Harry Maguire last summer, the Red Devils also boast the likes of: Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones, Axel Tuanzebe, Chris Smalling (on loan), Marcos Rojo (on loan too), and Bailly too. Not to mention Timothy Fosu-Mensah either.
The fact is Solskjaer has far too many players for that one position, and this summer will need to see him be ruthless with a couple of them at the very least. Smalling’s loan spell at AS Roma may see him be given one last chance to stake a first-team claim at Old Trafford, whilst Tuanzebe’s age – he is still only 22 – means the Red Devils surely see him as someone who can form the heart of their back-line for the next decade or so.
That all leaves Bailly in a precarious position, and the £80k-a-week ace should be the one on the chopping block. His awful injury record means he just simply isn’t someone you can rely on over the course of a full and demanding Premier League season.
Pinning your hopes on someone like that, and continuing to pay him his wages whilst he’s out of action, just doesn’t make footballing or financial sense. It’s exactly why Solskjaer should make the gut-wrenching decision of bringing an end to Bailly’s United career, and moving forward with the likes of Maguire and Tuanzebe.