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United’s Bailly reveals how close he came to playing for City in the Manchester derby

Date Posted,April 26, 2017

Eric Bailly goes into the Manchester derby ­admitting he expected to be playing for City rather than United.

It was Manchester City who were making all of the running to sign Bailly before Jose Mourinho intervened and made a phone call last summer to clinch a £30million deal to take him to the Old Trafford giants.

But Bailly, 23, who was also being chased by Barcelona, admitted he thought it was a prank when his ­mobile rang and the voice on the other end of the line said he was Mourinho.

“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,” smiled Bailly.

“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.

Guardiola won’t be selecting Bailly for Thursday’s huge Manchester derby (Photo: AFP)

“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.”

Bailly’s is a remarkable story, ­because he did not even play for a club in his native Ivory Coast.

He was spotted playing at a ­football academy as a teenager, scouts invited him to a ­tournament in Burkina Faso and then ­Italian giants Juventus tried to sign him.

But because of his lack of any football background and paperwork, they could not get a work permit and he ended up going to Espanyol instead.

New United star Bailly told our John of his journey from the Ivory Coast to Old Trafford (Photo: Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
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