Meet Leon Bailey, the latest up-and-coming sensation in the Bundesliga
It's not a secret that wingers are taking over Europe. The predominance of the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-3-3 tactical systems have allowed fast-paced players to become relevant in the world once again. And there are several young players who seem to fit that mold perfectly.
The one we will analyse today comes from the German Bundesliga, and specifically plays for Bayer Leverkusen. His name is no other than Leon Bailey, and he's a 20-year-old winger who, according to several experts, could be "the next big thing" in Europe sooner rather than later. But who is Bailey, really? Because he doesn't get a lot of press and honestly, he is not even the best player on his current team.
As mentioned above, Bailey is a talented winger with pace to burn, and a player who is already considered one of the fastest forwards in the entire continent. That's quite a praise considering that names such as Bruma, Christian Pulisic, and Kingsley Coman feature in the Bundesliga on a weekly basis. But Bailey can out-run them all with ease. He's not a finished product by any means and needs to polish several areas of his game, but the potential is there to become a world-class winger with the right coaching and, most importantly, in the right team. He needs to be in an environment where he can feel comfortable.
Maybe that's why he left his native Jamaica as a 13-year-old to join USK Anif Jugend in Austria. But he proved to be too good for the club, and signed for a professional club in Slovakia. He joined AS Trencin as a free agent in 2013, but only spent two years there. Once again he was killing the competition, and it was time to make another jump to a bigger league. Belgium was his destination, and Bailey packed his bags for the third time in four years. He joined KRC Genk for a modest €1,40M fee, but quickly proved to be a worthy investment.
Bailey spent one season and a half with Genk, and dazzled everyone in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League with his rare mix of speed, skill, and finishing. He registered 15 goals and 21 assists in 77 matches for Genk, and it was clear a team from one of the top leagues would come knocking on his door sooner than later. That team was Bayer Leverkusen, and Bailey has been with the club since January this year. He struggled to settle at first, but he's been far better this season and right now it seems no one can take him away from the starting XI.
Bailey can play as a winger on both flanks, but he certainly feels more comfortable on the right. He's been featuring on that role for Leverkusen during the current Bundesliga campaign, and the numbers back him up. The Jamaica U23 international currently has four goals and four assists in 12 Bundesliga matches in the current term, and also adds one goal in his lone DFB Pokal appearance. Surprisingly he has looked far more productive as a left winger, where he has two goals and two assists in just three games, compared to two goals in six matches as a right winger.
It seems inevitable he will make the jump to a bigger league. As it has been the trend throughout his career, and so far he has been able to thrive on every single level he has been. It is still quite early in his career, but there's no question Bailey has enough talent to become one of the best wingers in the world sooner than later.