Eric Bailly was selling old phones and cigarettes on the streets just five years before joining Manchester United for £30million.
The Old Trafford defender has recalled his experience of growing up in the Ivory Coast to The Players Tribune. The 25-year-old – who now earns around £80,000 a week – came from a less-than-privileged background but explained how he always chipped in to help his parents.
But he did not want to have to rely on them solely and took to dealing on the black market to have an extra source of income. Incredibly, that hustling on the street came just five years before he put pen to paper on a mega-money deal with United that would set him up for life.
Bailly details the moment he signed his first professional contract with Espanyol and how quickly his life changed from that point.
He said: “By the second month I had signed a contract with Espanyol. I had made it. I was a professional footballer. When I came back to the Ivory Coast, everyone was so happy. My whole family was celebrating. My father was overjoyed. He even stepped into the kitchen to cook chicken.
“Then I returned to Spain to join the Espanyol youth teams. When I got my first payment, I made a bank transfer to my family. Since then everything has gone very quickly. I joined Espanyol in 2011, and three years later I made my first-team debut. Then I spent 18 months at Villarreal, and suddenly I was playing for Manchester United.
“In about five years I had gone from selling cigarettes in the streets of Abidjan to playing for the biggest club in the world. My reality has been turned on its head. Now people see me as a star, a celebrity. I have something like two million followers on Instagram. I am famous back home.”
Bailly also explains how he considers his current life “fake”. He says fame and money has seen people be quick to praise him to his face but then criticise him behind his back.
And it’s clear he wants to get back to letting his football do the talking. Bailly has not played at all this season after requiring surgery on a knee injury he picked up in pre-season but is set to have his renewal clause triggered.
Photo Credit: Getty