Eric Bailly has been nominated for the 2016 African Player of the Year award.
Having had an excellent season with Villareal in La Liga, Bailly has gone from strength to strength and cemented himself as one of Manchester United’s best players so far this year. Nobody knew who he was before we signed him but Man United fans are certainly big admirers of Bailly now.
It’s great to see Bailly’s development rewarded with a nomination but he faces some seriously stiff competition including Premier League Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez and Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Here is a full list of all the players nominated for the award: Riyad Mahrez (Algeria & Leicester City), El Arabi Hillel Soudani (Algeria & Dinamo Zagreb), Islam Slimani (Algeria & Leicester City), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon & Antalyaspor), Benjamin Mounkandjo (Cameroon & Lorient), Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast & Paris St Germain), Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast & Manchester United), Gervinho (Ivory Coast & Hebei Fortune), Mohamed Salah (Egypt and Roma), Mohamed Elneny (Egypt & Arsenal) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon & Borussia Dortmund), Andre Ayew (Ghana & West Ham), Victor Wanyama (Kenya & Tottenham), William Jebor (Liberia & Wydad Athletic Club), Mehdi Benatia (Morocco & Juventus), Hakim Ziyech (Morocco & Ajax), Mikel John Obi (Nigeria & Chelsea), Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria & Manchester City), Ahmed Musa (Nigeria & Leicester City), Cedric Bakambu (DR Congo & Villareal), Yannick Bolasie (DR Congo & Everton), Sadio Mane (Senegal & Liverpool), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal & Napoli), Keegan Dolly (South Africa & Mamelodi Sundowns), Itumeleng Khune (South Africa & Kaizer Chiefs), Mbwana Samatta (Tanzania & Genk), Aymen Abdennour (Tunisia & Valencia), Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia & Sunderland), Dennis Onyango (Uganda & Mamelodi Sundowns), Khama Billiat (Zimbabwe & Mamelodi Sundowns)
I don’t really think you can look past Mahrez as the winner but it’s fantastic for Bailly to be nominated in the first place, so he’ll be over the moon with that itself.
Ever since Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand left we’ve struggled in central defence. Chris Smalling‘s development last year was excellent but he still wasn’t that dominant centre-back in the same style as either of them were. Now, Bailly looks to be that Vidic-type defender who we’ve missed and United fans have instantly taken to him and his no nonsense style.
The great thing about Bailly is that he’s only just turned 22 and has so many more years of development left before his peak and if he continues in the same sort of form he’s showed early on, he could grow into a true United great defender.