Leon Bailey 19 Midfielder KRC Genk Jamaica
The story of how Leon Bailey has made his way from Jamaica to Belgium and then on to becoming one of the hottest properties in the game is – to put it bluntly – complicated. The journey is littered with transfer system red flags as he was shipped around a string of Europe’s best academies for trials.
A conservative estimate would suggest Leon trained or trialed with seven different clubs around the continent before eventually joining AS Trencin in Slovakia at the age of 16. Two years later, Genk brought him to the Jupiler League though there are strong suggestions that the deal was agreed as early as 2011 when he was only 14 and Bailey’s travels to elsewhere were mostly a case of wasting time.
Anyway – as for the player himself, well given that he did enough to have Ajax youth coach Ronald De Boer purring over him, you’ll have to trust us that he’s potentially very good. The Jamaican trained with Ajax for a few weeks and had the process of signing a non-EU international under the age of 18 been smoother, Bailey would already be a regular at the Amsterdam Arena.
His speed and agility are the stand-out strengths that he has, and with being so quick he often has more time on the ball than others. He’s also pretty strong in possession too and though De Boer did say “He has no weak points” we’ll call that out as hyperbole for now.
For starters, his defensive acumen and effort could do with some work. He also needs to work on some of his decision making and tightening up his final ball; but those issues haven’t stopped him from being a delight so far.
2016 has been…
Picking up the Belgian Young Player of the Year award for an excellent season last term, Bailey has started 2016/17 in the sort of form that will guarantee him the award again. Eight goals and eight assists in 25 appearances in all competitions is a good return for any player, never mind a winger.
He has been a big part of Genk finding themselves at the top of their Europa League group; and with Athletic Club, Rapid Vienna and Sassuolo for company in Group F that is no mean feat.
We assume his lack of international caps is a logistics and preservation decision rather than footballing one. Quite a lot of their European based players miss games frequently and we presume the Jamaician Football Federation are itching to get Bailey in a yellow shirt.
Allegedly Bailey recently said he dreamed of playing for Manchester United, but the player disputes ever providing such quotes to a journalist. This has led to a bit of a stand-off with the media and it may be some time before they get a chance to ask him a question again.
The gist of the quote was this – “Bailey would love to move to Manchester United, but he won’t go anywhere to sit on the bench. He wants to play.” There isn’t too much to argue with really in that. There is no point in a player like Leon moving up a rung to become a barely used squad player; except maybe money?
On the pitch we’ve got a feeling that within three years he may start to operate in a central position, rather than staying out wide. In a similar way to Kevin De Bruyne has done, or as Ashley Young did when he was spritely.
B Whoever wins the bidding war will get a potential phenom
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