Eric Bailly had not replayed a match in domestic competition since December 30, during a match won at Old Trafford by the Red Devils against Burnley (3-1) in the Premier League. That day, Ralf Rangnick started the Ivorian, before replacing him in the 65th minute. But Bailly probably had no idea that he had just played his last official match with his club.
Between this date and his appearance on the lawn of the Allianz Riviera, where he replaced the Bosnian Sead Kolasinac in the 58th, while OM were leading 3-0, the former Villarreal player had contented himself with five games with his selection – three during the CAN in Cameroon, and two others in friendly matches in France (1-2) and England (0-3) last March – and 144 minutes granted by Erik ten Hag, the new coach Mancunian, during the summer preparation.
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Marseille was a risk
“Last season, Bailly made seven appearances for Manchester United in all competitions, and there were no signs that Ten Hag’s arrival would change his status as a luxury substitute. I believe that it was important for him to leave, in order to get more playing time. He could not stay in this situation, playing so little. For several years, he has played little, and this has obviously slowed his progress. So yes, going to Marseille, where you have to perform quickly, is taking a risk, and if OM decided to bring in a player who had hardly played for months, it’s because the Olympian decision-makers have certainty about him“, explains Patrice Beaumelle, the former coach of Côte d’Ivoire (April 2020-April 2022), who has always maintained his confidence in the national team.
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Beaumelle, then assistant to Hervé Renard in Côte d’Ivoire, discovered Bailly in 2014 during a La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Espanyol, the Ivorian defender’s first European club (44 caps, 2 goals). “When I took charge of the Elephants, I never hesitated to call on him, even if he didn’t play much for a club. ‘Cause he’s someone you can count on“.
In Manchester, the eleventh summer recruit of Igor Tudor was sometimes injured, but his recurring presence on the sidelines or in the stands was mainly recorded in the name of strong competition in the defensive sector of the Red Devils. “During his first season at United (2016-2017), José Mourinho, who arrived at the same time as him, played him quite a bit (38 matches in all competitions, editor’s note). Then his playing time decreased in the following seasons (19, 17, 11, 27 and 7 matches, editor’s note). I asked him why he didn’t leave the club, but he replied that the Mancunian leaders wanted to keep him.“, continues Beaumelle.
“He was patient. In Manchester, he was not allowed enough to show his qualities, because he rarely chained matches. I think he made a very good choice by going to Marseille, a place where he is wanted, and where he should be of great service, because he is a player used to high level, who is used to the pressure , whether in selection or at Manchester United“, intervenes Max-Alain Gradel, the striker of Sivasspor (Turkey) and who has been seeing Bailly at the Elephants for more than seven years.
He will render services to OM
The former Saint-Etienne and Toulouse striker, who presents his younger brother as a man “calm, discreet, good teammate, easy to manage, competitive and above all very hardworking”hopes that Igor Tudor, the demanding Olympian coach, will be able to give Bailly time to adapt. “We have to give him the necessary time to get to know his teammates, learn to play with them, acclimatize to the way his coach works. He arrived at the end of the transfer window, after having done all his preparation with Manchester. Physically, I think he’s fine. Mentally, he wants to prove that Marseille were right to trust him. But knowing him, I can assure you that he’ll be there if asked to start. matches”.
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Igor Tudor makes his team play in 3-4-3 and it works, as proven by OM’s good start to the season (2nd with 10 points). Not a problem for Bailly. “He is used to playing in this system. He did it in Manchester, and I have already developed Ivory Coast with three defenders. He is comfortable in this configuration, or in a defense at four”, continues Patrice Beaumelle. The right-hander Bailly is portrayed by his former coach as a defender “skillful in the recovery, fast, comfortable in duels and the physical challenge, and the higher the level of the matches, the better he performs. If he was able to make mistakes during these last matches, in club or in selection, and in particular in terms of concentration, it is because he played little. Yes, I think he accepted his role as a luxury substitute at United too much, but no, the march was not too high when the English bought it from Villarreal (38 million euros, editor’s note).”
From Sivas, in central Anatolia, Max-Alain Gradel has promised to closely follow the performance of his compatriot, whose playing time should greatly increase during his stay in Marseille. “With the championship and the Champions League, Eric will have the opportunity to show that he is an excellent defender, and that he had the level to evolve at Manchester United…”
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