Eric Bailly has said his goodbyes with his loan move to Marseille one step away, and what could make his Man Utd exit permanent has emerged.
The Ivory Coast centre-back, 28, is poised to leave Old Trafford with a feeling of unfulfilled potential. Bailly was signed from Villarreal by Jose Mourinho in 2016 to the tune of £30m. His early displays were promising, but that was as good as it got.
Indeed, after making 25 league appearances in his maiden campaign, he never went past 13 in the next five years.
Erik ten Hag has a blossoming new partnership between Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez. The pair were excellent in repelling Liverpool on Monday night, while Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are waiting in the wings.
That means Bailly is fifth-choice at best, something that was always likely to prompt an exit.
Manchester United began shopping Bailly around and Fabrizio Romano was among those to detail Marseille’s interest.
Arsenal ace leaves big shoes to fill
The Ligue 1 side were marshalled at the back last term by Arsenal’s imperious William Saliba. Marseille hoped to bring the young Frenchman back for another loan stint, though Mikel Arteta wisely opted to keep him in north London.
With a spot to fill, Marseille turned to Bailly and quickly struck an agreement with Man Utd on a season-long loan move.
A conditional obligation was added into the agreement, with Marseille forced into making the move permanent if they qualify for next season’s Champions League. They finished second only behind PSG last term.
Personal terms have since been settled and according to Romano, Bailly will travel to Marseille early on Wednesday morning to undergo a medical. The defender has already said his goodbyes in Manchester.
Are Marseille likely to trigger Bailly clause?
With Bailly’s conditional obligation dependant on UCL qualification, all eyes will be on how Marseille fare in Ligue 1 this season.
The top three in France qualify for Champions League football, and Igor Tudor’s side finished second last term.
Saliba’s return to north London is a blow, though Marseille have laid a marker down in the transfer market.
Indeed, they’ve turned Matteo Guendouzi and Arkadiusz Milik’s loan moves permanent. Elsewhere, goalkeeper Pau Lopez, Cengiz Ünder, Colombian Luis Suárez and Jordan Veretout have all arrived for fees around the £10m mark.
Experience has been added in the form of Alexis Sanchez too. Clearly, Marseille are keen to double down on their success from last year and look odds-on for another top three finish. Doing so would ensure Bailly does not return to Manchester in 2023.