Leon Bailey is one of Jamaica’s brightest football prospects. Since the likes of Ricardo Fuller and Ricardo ‘Bibi’ Gardener took the English Premier League by storm in the early to mid-2000s, no other Jamaican has ever been catapulted into the limelight of European football the way the Bayer Leverkusen attacker has.
The 23-year-old became a popular mention during his time at Belgian outlet K.R.C. Genk, but he soon became a household name when his performances were more consistent for the team, particularly during their 2016/17 Europa League campaign. He finished that season winning the UEFA Europa League Goal of the Tournament award and was nominated for the European Golden Boy award. No Jamaican has ever made that list prior.
Fast-forward to 2020 and Leon Bailey finds himself in a slightly difficult spot in his career. Due to recent injuries, as well as seemingly falling out of favor with Leverkusen’s first team manager Peter Bosz, Bailey’s form has been inconsistent at best. But, to be fair, there were many factors that contributed to the previous campaign being his worst season to date. With multiple muscle injuries and missing five league games due to suspension, Bailey’s in and out activity in the Leverkusen squad saw his form dip drastically, though still managing to end the season with seven goals and three assists in all competitions.
This season, however, the Jamaican international has the opportunity to bounce back and prove to his manager that he is the man to lead Leverkusen into Europe. With talisman Kai Havertz moving in a record transfer to London club Chelsea and fellow front man Kevin Volland transferring to Monaco, Bailey now has less competition for starting places up front.
It will be particularly crucial for Bailey’s progress this season if Bosz utilizes him more in the attacking positions of the team instead of playing him in a deeper role as we have come to see during the Dutch man’s tenure at the club.
There is no denying his talent and his mentality, but if Leon Bailey is to live up to the expectations that he will become one of Europe’s biggest sensations, then this season could prove to be a very pivotal one.
A successful 2020/21 would see increased contributions to Leverkusen’s attacking output by way of scoring more goals, assisting and creating chances for his teammates. His best ever season at the Bundesliga club came in his first full campaign, where he netted 12 goals and had 6 assists in 34 appearances. If Bailey is to match or even better those stats for the upcoming season, there is little doubt that the biggest clubs from all over Europe would be vying for the Cassava Piece native’s signature.
Since the start of this season however, Leon has not secured a starting position and even recently came off the bench in the team’s last league game, a 1-1 draw with VFB Stuttgart. New striker Patrick Schick, who scored the lone goal for the team, started while Moussa Diaby and Karim Bellarabi were the manager’s preferred wingers. If this is a recurring theme for the rest of the season, then Bailey’s chances could quite possibly remain limited. One would have to think, if this is the case, that perhaps his future in football may lie elsewhere instead of the black and red of Bayer Leverkusen.