As a defensive unit in the Premier League, one might assume that being able to communicate with the players either side of you would be of the utmost importance, given the world-class attackers constantly making your job one of the toughest in world sports.
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Bailly, who was born in the Ivory Coast and has only ever played professionally in Spain prior to moving to Man United for $44 million this summer, speaks French and English. The 22-year-old has started all seven of United’s PL games this season, playing all 630 minutes thus far (plus another 180 in two Europa League games). Starting to his left has been an Englishman, Chris Smalling, on three occasions, and a Dutchman, Blind, the other four. Antonio Valencia, from Ecuador, and a born Spanish speaker, has started to his right in all seven games.
Bailly and Blind, on the hurdles presented by the language barrier — quotes from the Mirror:
“There are players who speak Spanish and French and they help me integrate. I’ve just started having English classes, too. Little by little.
“It’s important for the other players to have confidence in you. It was my dream since being a child to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world and now I’m here, I’m going to take that chance.”
“I think the key is to talk a lot. It’s a bit more difficult with Eric because of the language barrier but we both understand football and you can also do a lot with your hands.
“We’ve had a good understanding already It’s important to be able to rely on each other and help each other, that helps build a team together.”
The summer arrivals of Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan ($37 million), an Armenian, brings the total number of nationalities to play for United to 40, most of any club in the world. Bailly isn’t the first to struggle with communication at United, and if history bears a view into the future, he won’t be the last.