Saturday, December 15, 2018

Meet Leon Bailey, the best winger you have never heard about before

Juan Pablo Aravena in Bundesliga, Editorial 14 Dec 2017

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The German Bundesliga has been home of some of the best wingers in recent years. Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Marco Reus, Ousmane Dembele, and Karim Bellarabi are some of the players that have graced Bundesliga pitches with their talent and quality in recent years.

This current season, things have not changed much. Names such as Robben, Ribery and Reus remain on their respective teams, but there are other quality wingers worth mentioning. Serge Gnabry, Christian Pulisic, Kingsley Coman, Bruma, and Emil Forsberg are talented players worth watching in the future. But there is one player no one really talks about, and he has enough talent to become one of the best wingers in the world in the near future. We are talking about Leon Bailey, a 20-year-old forward who plays for Bayer Leverkusen.

A young player with lots of experience despite his age

But if we want to talk about his Jamaican sensation, we have to go back a bit. We could say he has been thriving in the Bundesliga this year, but that would not do justice to him. So we will go back to the beginning of his career, back when he was a 13-year-old boy trying to make it in Austria.

Bailey joined USK Anif Jugend, but it was clear he was too good for the club and instead move to Slovakia to join AS Trencin as a free agent in 2013. As one would have expected, once again Bailey looked like a man among a boys, and he was ready for his first professional adventure. He made the jump when KRC Genk came knocking to his door. The Belgian side paid a modest €1,40M fee for the winger, but he quickly proved to be a worthy investment. Bailey was packing his bags for a third time in a short span, but this time the move would pay off big time.

Bailey didn’t need a lot of time to show the Belgian Jupiler Pro League was not good enough for him. He only spent one season and a half with Genk, but registered 15 goals and 21 assists in 77 matches for Genk, showing a knack for scoring but also a huge ability to assist his teammates. Teams all over Europe were looking at him, but the Jamaican decided to join the Bundesliga. He signed for Bayer Leverkusen and, even though he could not gain many minutes this past season, things have been quite different in the current term.

The future is extremely bright for him

Bailey currently has four goals and four assists in 12 Bundesliga matches, while adding another goal in his lone DFB Pokal appearance. But most importantly, he is settling as a starter on a team that could easily reach the UEFA Europa League given the strength of the squad.

If we analyse his entire career, then Bailey might not last long on German soil. Chelsea have already enquired about his services, but Leverkusen rejected a reported £22million bid for his services. And there is no question other Premier League sides are likely to make a push for him as well in the coming months. He would fit quite well on a team such as Arsenal or Tottenham, given his pace and his playing style. But Barcelona, PSG and Real Madrid have also been reportedly linked to him.

What’s clear is that he might not be too long on Leverkusen. He is just too talented not to move elsehwere, and soon. He might not receive the same press of players such as Coman, Pulisic, Gnabry or Dembele, but he is just as talented. And the potential is there to see him as one of the best wingers in the world sooner than later.


Juan Pablo Aravena

A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.



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