Manchester United have changed their stance on the future of Eric Bailly after he became a top target for AC Milan, according to reports in Italy.
Bailly has been a Man Utd player since 2016, when he signed from Villarreal. He has not always been a regular, sometimes due to injuries but often due to competition for places. Therefore, his future at the club has been in doubt for a while.
It came as something of a surprise when he signed a new contract with the club in April 2021. He then expected more opportunities this season, but he has only featured in four games of the 2021-22 Premier League so far.
As such, his future is up for question again just months after he committed until 2024. And in the shape of Milan, he has a concrete suitor if he wishes to leave.
The Serie A side need a new defender after losing Simon Kjaer for the season to an ACL injury. They have been looking into a deal for Bailly for a number of weeks.
The Ivory Coast international is believed to be open to making the move to Milan. However, he has been waiting for the two clubs to agree on the terms of the transfer.
Milan have been pushing for a loan deal, but it has been thought that United would only sanction a sale. Now, though, Gazzetta Dello Sport claim the Red Devils are changing their minds.
The Milan-based paper claims United are now “open” to allowing Bailly to leave on loan.
Manchester United defender Eric Bailly wanted by AC Milan
Manchester United centre back Eric Bailly is wanted by AC Milan but they have other targets from the Premier League
Any decision will still hinge on Milan, though, because while they have made Bailly their “top” target, they are also considering Abdou Diallo of Paris Saint-Germain.
Until they pick their preference for good, Bailly will remain a Man Utd player. However, should Milan select him as the one they want, it seems there is room for a deal.
United already have Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof and Phil Jones as centre-back options in addition to Bailly.
Serie A switch to allow second Milan deal
In Milan, he would face less competition. With Kjaer on the sidelines, the Rossoneri are relying on Fikayo Tomori and Alessio Romagnoli, while they want to loan Matteo Gabbia out – but only if Bailly arrives.
The 27-year-old has made a total of 113 appearances across his Man Utd career. He previously played for Espanyol and Villarreal in Spain, and has therefore never played in Italy before.
Moving to Milan would give him his first taste of Serie A action (not just that, but also a potential title challenge since the Rossoneri are currently second behind Inter). And it seems United are warming to the idea of it.
It is not clear what their plans would be thereafter. There does not seem to be any mention of an option to buy. In that case, Bailly could be reintegrated, or a sale could be negotiated further down the line.
Milan warned about Bailly move
However, one man who thinks Bailly is not the right fit for Milan is former West Ham forward Paolo Di Canio.
“Bailly has had physical issues, and he is not a player like Tomori,” he told Sky Sport Italia recently.
“On paper, he has similar characteristics, but sometimes he runs too many risks and is not as aggressive defensively. He may do well, but he is not a player like Tomori who arrived with a great desire to emerge.”
England international Tomori has indeed impressed since joining Milan from Chelsea last year. It was initially a loan itself, before becoming a permanent transfer.
He has set a blueprint for Bailly to follow if he makes a similar switch, even if there may be some doubts about whether the African would be as suitable.