Bailly proud to fly Ivory Coast flag

Monday 21 March 2022 07:00

Having moved to Europe at the age of 17 to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer, Manchester United defender Eric Bailly has enjoyed a rise that has seen him become a fully-fledged international for his home country Ivory Coast.

Bailly, now 27, began his career with Spanish outfit Espanyol after being spotted while taking part in a youth tournament in Burkina Faso. Within three short years, the now United defender had made his La Liga debut, before a brief 18-month spell with Villarreal preceded a move to M16, back in 2016. 

As well as putting in the work for United, Bailly has featured 27 times for his native Ivory Coast since then and now has 42 senior caps in total. The defender told us that his home country will always hold a special place in his heart, ahead of the Elephants' friendly matches with France (25 March) and England (29 March) this month.

Bailly has made seven United appearances this season and represented his nation at the recent Africa Cup of Nations.
"Ivory Coast is everything to me, my family, my friends, I have everything there," Bailly began in an exclusive interview with MUTV. 

"I am very happy to represent the Ivory Coast here in England, in Manchester. 

"When you speak about the Ivory Coast, it is my home, it is very special.”

With his home nation responsible for producing several Premier League talents over the years, it also worth noting Bailly is not the only Ivorian currently at the club, with fellow Red and countryman Amad, currently on loan at Rangers, also from the region.
During the exclusive interview, United's no.3 shared who his biggest footballing influences were as a youngster growing up in Bingerville, in the south east of Ivory Coast. 

"When I watched Ivory Coast, I watched Didier Drogba a lot, he is a legend, a big player. 

"We have Yaya Toure, they give a great example and they are also very good players. 

"For me, Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba are two of the best players ever in this league."

United in the World Cup play-offs


Success stories abound at this stage of qualification, from Murphy in 1958 to Lindelof five years ago.

With football recognised as the number one sport in Bailly’s home country too, Eric is understandably a big role model back home, particularly to those from the next generation that are hoping to replicate his journey to the top. 

The Reds defender is one of six Ivorian internationals in the recently named squad for March's games who currently apply their trade here in the Premier League, and he has emphasised just how big an influence the sport has in the Ivory Coast.

"We have very good talent there," Bailly began. 

"The country loves to play football and the number one sport in the Ivory Coast is football. 
"We have many talents playing there and they just need the chance to come into Europe to show their qualities," he added.

"They train, they try hard and one day they may get their chance like I did here in England. 

"For example, there is Nicholas Pepe at Arsenal, Wilfried Zaha, there are now many good players."