Leon Bailey: The Next Wonderkid?
As usual with the world of transfers in the Belgian league it’s more about who is leaving, than who is coming in. Rarely do Belgian teams sign ready made stars, they carefully craft the next wonderkid over the years ready to sell them on for mega profit in the future.
One of the players currently capturing the attention of leading teams the continent over is Jamaican born Leon Bailey. At just 18 he is earmarked as a star for the future, but does the striker have what it takes to fulfill his potential that has been heaped on him?
Bailey may have come to your attention because of his linked transfer to Chelsea, or his bags of pace and potential on computer game FIFA 16, but he came to our attention when signing for KRC Genk in 2015. Having previously been on their books as a youth, he left the country after it was revealed he was living as an illegal immigrant. He returned to Genk by way of Slovakia with the promise of terrorising defenders the country over.
It doesn’t take a genius to see what Bailey brings to the party. Blistering speed, sometimes feet that are too fast for his brain; an abundance of skill that sometimes is seen instead of more obvious passes. But the Belgian league is the perfect place for a player like Bailey to show the world his talents, limited in defensive ability, plentiful in space of express yourself and no shortage of scouts watching.
For years now scouts have flocked to Belgium to find talented players. Just last season Newcastle United made a double swoop for Anderlecht’s Chancel Mbemba and Aleksandar Mitrovic. And all manner of clubs are represented, from powerhouses like Chelsea to Burnley; European teams like Benfica, Partizan and Celtic all dipped into the Belgian market last season.
It’s been a long time coming for Genk and Leon Bailey. In 2013 he, and two other minors, were deemed to be living in the country illegally after their agent Craig Butler returned penniless from Mexico having faked his own kidnapping. A raid by ‘Arbeidsinspectie’ (a work investigative force) saw the retinue vanish from Belgium.
In the time of Butler’s absence, Bailey and the two others lived and were schooled thanks to Racing Genk, it shows partly why Bailey was so keen to return to Genk in the future. The team that looked after him as a youngster clearly held a dear place in his heart thanks to their support in the past.
Now it would seem that Bailey is fast outgrowing the team, and even the country. With a similar style of play to KAA Gent’s Moses Simon, two years Bailey’s senior and also having a spell with AS Trencin in Slovakia. Like Simon, Bailey plays wide and far up the pitch, looking to cut in from the right on his favoured left foot. It was exactly this play that saw Bailey score his debut goal for Genk against OH Leuven with a rasping effort from outside the area having cut across a mass of defenders.
It’s likely that this season in Belgium will be Bailey’s last, if he even completes it with many teams undeterred by the flow of the season when conducting business. For Genk, they will rely on Bailey’s commitment this season. With very little in the way of recognised incoming players and Christian Kabasele already leaving a hole at centre back with his departure to Watford means that Genk will be reliant on their Jamaican talisman.