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27th Apr 2017

Eric Bailly reveals reason he declined offer to move to Manchester City

What a difference a phonecall makes

Darragh Murphy

If not for a phonecall, Eric Bailly could be lining out on the opposite side of the Manchester derby.

The Ivorian defender was one of Jose Mourinho’s first signings as Manchester United manager last summer and while he may have lacked the superstar name of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic or a Paul Pogba, Bailly wasted no time whatsoever in endearing himself to the Old Trafford faithful.

The centre-half was named United’s Player of the Month for August 2016, after a string of man-of-the-match performances at the back for the Red Devils.

Comparisons were quickly drawn between Bailly’s defensive style and that of United legend Nemanja Vidic, and he has quickly cemented his status as the rock in Mourinho’s defence.

But things could have been so different if not for a phonecall from Mourinho last summer.

Having impressed at Villarreal for 18 months, Bailly was on the radar of a number of clubs and the 23-year-old has since revealed how he made his mind up between the two most interested parties – United and their arch-rivals Manchester City.

“I was in the Ivory Coast, I got called from a ­Portuguese number, he ­introduced himself but I just didn’t ­believe it at first,” Bailly told The Mirror.

“Before I came to Man United, it was City who had been watching me. In my mind, I was going there. But then everything changed.

“It felt like Mourinho was the one who really wanted me. He showed more interest, he rang me and that’s why I’m at Man United.

“Man City contacted my agent, Barcelona as well were talking to my agent, but they weren’t as interested in me as Mourinho. He really pushed for the move.

“Of course the club is ­important when you sign, but the manager is so important. If a player feels like the manager wants you, wants to sign you, it gives you extra motivation.”