LEON BAILEY has continued to blossom since moving to Bayer Leverkusen.
And recently rumours have been doing the rounds that he could even be a surprise inclusion in the England World Cup 2018 squad.
But who is Bailey, and is he eligible to play for the Three Lions?
Our friends at Football Whispers have taken a close look at the Leverkusen starlet.
Who is Leon Bailey?
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Bailey was brought to Europe in 2011 by Craig Butler, his adoptive father, who was trying to find a club for his sons Kyle and Leon.
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Originally they ended up at USK Leube Anif in Austria – now known as FC Liefering after they were bought by Red Bull Salzburg – where Butler senior was appointed the club’s head scout.
Soon trials were secured with Genk, Standard Liege, Anderlecht and Ajax, but European law forbids clubs from signing non-EU players under the age of 18.
So the risks of snapping up the youngster were simply too big a risk for clubs to take a chance.
At the time of his trial with Ajax, Frank de Boer took a liking to the winger. “We tested him in different areas,” he said.
“In speed and agility he was already better than some guys of the first team.
“He’s so fast it’s not normal. His speed in combination with his technique is very rare. Exceptional. He has no weak points.”
AS Trencin in Slovakia became Bailey’s next club, but after just four months in their Under-19 side he secured a move to Genk, the Belgians paying £1.24million to finally land the winger.
Two weeks after his 18th birthday he made his Jupiler Pro League debut, coming off the bench in a 3-1 loss to Sint-Truiden.
As his minutes increased, so did his confidence and impact on the pitch.
After 16 appearances he’d registered two assists and two goals, but in the last nine games of the campaign he contributed another two goals and five assists.
Named as Belgium’s Young Professional Footballer of the Year in 2015/16, Bailey’s path was set, and excitement around the Jamaican began to grow.
Ajax had a £10million bid for him turned down, Paris Saint-Germain were also rejected and Leicester City and Manchester United were constantly linked with moves.
But it was Bayer Leverkusen who pounced, agreeing a deal worth an initial £12.4m to secure his signature.
“In Leon Bailey we have brought in another highly promising player on a long-term deal,” said club CEO Michael Schade. “This lad was high up on the wish list of many other European clubs. That makes us even happier to have won out against such strong competition.”
In his 23 games in the Bundesliga, Bailey, who is good friends with Raheem Sterling, has contributed to ten goals, settling well into life in Germany.
Lightning quick across the ground, it’s no surprise to hear the 20-year-old reveal a friendship with Olympic champion and countryman, Usain Bolt.
“I know Usain very well, he is a close friend of mine and a really cool guy, who travels a lot in Germany,” he admitted in February.
“Hopefully we can meet here, maybe I’ll call him and invite him to a game in the BayArena.”
How much would Bailey cost?
Contracted until 2022, interested clubs understand it won’t be easy to part him from Leverkusen.
The German side know the amount of high-calibre clubs who were attracted to his ability before they swooped, and as their interest hasn’t faded, sporting director Rudi Voller will be keen on the club to at least double what his club paid.
Chelsea have already had a £22million bid rebuffed, but reports suggest they will return with an improved offer.
Is Leon Bailey eligible to play for England?
Speculation has been rife that Jamaican winger Bailey could switch his allegiance to England, as he has two grandparents with British passports.
Bailey has also fuelled the fire by saying he is not yet ready to commit to Jamaica as he isn’t convinced it’s the right move for his career.
He said: “One thing I want people to know is I love my country.
“But at the end of the day, I have to think about myself developing as a young player, and my aim is to become the best player in the world.
“For me to achieve that, I need to be on the right path — and I think at this moment, choosing Jamaica is not the right path for me.
But Bailey’s grandparents were not born in England and therefore he would not be eligible to play for the Three Lions.
At present, Germany and Belgium, where he has spent most of his playing career, are more realistic options for a change of allegiance.
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