Eric Bailly worked hard to establish his reputation as one of the funniest, most chaotic footballers in the world during his time at Manchester United – so it’s wonderful to see that he’s still not lost the old magic after leaving Old Trafford.
Shipped out on loan to Marseille after Erik ten Hag’s arrival, Bailly has spent the last 18 months a little under the radar. The defender made just five Ligue 1 starts over the course of his year at the Stade Velodrome before a permanent move away from United in the summer – inevitably to the Turkish Super Lig.
A matter of months later, Bailly found himself one of six players suspended by Besiktas for “poor performance and incompatibility with the team”. The decision was reached to terminate his contract before the end of the year and he’s since joined Villarreal, the club where he made a name for himself; where United originally signed him from.
Omitted from the Ivory Coast’s AFCON squad, the tournament hosts might’ve wished he was there as they suffered a dismal 4-0 mauling to comparative minnows Equatorial Guinea.
Of course, Bailly’s stock has taken a nosedive in recent years, but for all the jokes and the memes there’s a decent defender there. We hope that Bailly can rebuild his career, finding form and confidence, back at the club where he’s produced the best football of his career.
The 29-year-old recently spoke candidly about his struggles at Old Trafford and the toll it took on him.
“You feel helpless because you can’t change anything when you’re injured,” Bailly said.
“You don’t want to feel worthless but that’s exactly what you feel. You want to get back training but at the biggest clubs there’s huge competition.”
But chaos just seems to follow Bailly around. It’s seemingly infectious. Fittingly enough, Bailly’s second Yellow Submarine debut was one of the wildest games in recent La Liga history – an eight-goal thriller that swung one way and then the other, and the first time that Barcelona have conceded five goals on home soil since 1994.
The night ended with Villarreal claiming all three points after twice scoring in injury time. Later that evening Xavi announced he’ll leave at the end of the season.
Things had started promisingly enough for Bailly, who helped keep the hosts at bay for an hour. Villarreal took a deserved two-goal lead, and later regained it, but briefly fell apart in a period in which they conceded three times in 11 minutes – in the midst of which Bailly was lucky not to see a red card for a rutting stag routine with Robert Lewandowski.
Eric Bailly 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/fpZqk9EtaA
— La plus belle CAN de l’histoire 🤍🇨🇮 (@SaintMoize) January 27, 2024
Just a couple of minutes after his spat with Lewandowski, Bailly scored an own goal to put Barcelona ahead.
Ilkay Gundogan had sent in a teasing free-kick delivery towards the six-yard box, but if you didn’t know which team was which you’d have sworn that Bailly was a centre-forward timing his run to attack the ball.
One to add to his collection. Bailly can now say he’s scored for Barcelona, adding to his goals for Liverpool and Manchester City.
On this evidence, we’re setting reminders to watch Villarreal for the rest of the season.
Bailly has made them appointment viewing.