In twelve months with Bayer Leverkusen, Leon Bailey has become one of the hottest young prospects in European football.
Some of football’s elite have scouted the 20-year-old’s progression in the Bundesliga, and whispers coming from Manchester City’s media circle has seen the player linked with a summer move to the Blues.
The 2015/2016 campaign was where it all started for Bailey in Belgium where the left-footed forward was exceptional in astonishing breakthrough campaign. The Kingston-born Bailey registered four goals and seven assists in Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League with Genk followed by winning the Young Professional Player of the Year award at the end of the season.
His second season with the Belgian outfit saw him named in the Europa League group stage Team Of the Year with his goal against Rapid Vienna named Goal Of The Tournament.
His incredible form saw him attract interest from a number of European clubs, including Leicester City. Leverkusen stole a march on the chasing pack and snapped up the youngster for €20million.
Bailey initially struggled to create much of an impact in Germany. His talent was not questioned but he contributed very little as Leverkusen struggled for consistency in a troubled campaign that saw them finish 12th.
This season, Bailey has seized every chance provided to him by coach Heiko Herrlich as Leverkusen push for the runners-up spot in the German top-flight. German international Karim Bellerabi watches on from the sidelines as Bailey’s form makes him ‘un-droppable’ should they wish to achieve a top-four finish.
Bailey has gathered a reputation for being a player for the biggest occasions as the 20-year-old scored goals against Schalke, Borussia Mönchengladbach and in the Rhein-Derby against Cologne in the space of four games in late 2017.
With nine goals and six assists in twenty Bundesliga games, the speedy youngster has taken the division by storm.
Leverkusen have scored more goals than anyone else outside the usual top two of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, with Bailey playing a significant role in the race for Champions League football.
A move from Manchester City would represent the club’s recent philosophy of purchasing young talent with the credentials of becoming world-class players – a category Bailey could certainly fall under at the Etihad Stadium.
A friend of current City superstar Raheem Sterling, Bailey has previously spoken of his admiration for his fellow Jamican-born forward.
“[He is] one of the few people who push and motivate me to become a pro… I look up to him not as a football player but as a big brother that has always been there,” Bailey told the Bundesliga’s official website in December 2017.
At Leverkusen, Herrlich has allowed Bailey relative freedom to express his talent with his jinkying dribbles, tunderous pace and deadly deliveries highlighting exactly Pep Guardiola is keen to add him to his already imresspive strike-force.
Not only are his wide forward like attributes special, Bailey has shown he is capable of leading the line for his side in the usual ‘number nine’ position – something Guardiola recently touched upon by highlighing his next forward signing would be able to play across the front three.
For supporters who do not watch the Bundesliga on a regular basis, Bailey has a similar build to Sterling and much of his play could be likened to his 22-year-old friend. Pace and and ability to breeze past defenders are qualities Leverkusen fans have witnessed from Bailey on a regular basis.
However, Bailey’s end product would be more like Leroy Sané than Sterling, but unlike Sterling, Bailey lacks that knowledge of spacial awareness and intelligence in the opposition box at times.
His poor decision making could be something Guardiola could easily change with time – much like Raheem Sterling – but shouldn’t be held against Bailey for any on-looking suitors given his possible ceiling for development.
City made two failed move for Alexis Sanchez and Riyad Mahrez in January but Bailey would represent more value for money should City pursue a move for the player.
Bailey could be worth the wait City fans who have been forced to endure a wait for a further forward added to their star-studded squad. Leverkusen are unlikely to sell Bailey unless a bid in excess of €50million is received.