Most impressive about Bailey this season has been his vision and eye for goal. He averages two key passes a game, has put 68% of his shots on target and is a very solid crosser of the ball (36% long ball completion rate), eventually taking over set-piece duty at Leverkusen. He is just as comfortable playing on both wings and isn’t afraid to take chances. That last point is perhaps the biggest area in his game he needs to work on as he needs to be more careful with the ball in possession despite being a respectable dribbler. He also is found wanting as far as defensive contribution, at times looking lost and stationary when tracking back. And, he doesn’t involve himself as much as he should in link up play.
Equally as impressive as his attributes though is the fact he has shown them in big games. He has scored against the likes of RB Leipzig, Schalke and arch-rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach this season and was Leverkusen’s liveliest attacker in their 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund two weekends ago.
Attracting rumoured interest from Chelsea, who reportedly has had an eye on the Jamaican since he signed for Genk, the future looks bright for Bailey. But there are still a few clouds hanging over his sunny outlook. These are mainly brought on by his adoptive father, Craig Butler, who has been a controversial figure in Jamaican football for many years. Bailey’s Genk tenure ended in part due to Butler’s demands that Kyle Butler be included in the first team, as well as contractual disputes.
Then there’s his fractured relationship with the Jamaica Football Federation – that sound you hear is the collective groans of Jamaican football fans – which so far has eliminated any chance of Bailey representing the Reggae Boyz. Fans have been hoping one of the best exports the country has produced would don the yellow and black. Unfortunately, battles between Butler and the J.F.F. have left both (proverbially) black and blue, with Butler insistent that Jamaica not only includes Bailey, but give Kyle and other Phoenix Academy graduates a try. On the back of another run to the Gold Cup final in the summer, national team manager Theodore Whitmore and co hoped they could convince Bailey to suit up for Jamaica for their friendly against Saudi Arabia in October. But fruitless negotiations shelved that possibility. Plus, the less said about Butler’s failed run to take over the J.F.F. presidency following Captain Horace Burrell’s passing, the better as he aimed to take over a federation he repeatedly criticised over the years.
Butler is a flamboyant personality, a personality that has rubbed off on Bailey to some degree. German media upon Bailey’s arrival were excited by Bailey’s prospects, but were quick to point out their hesitations due to Butler’s history. Should Bailey continue his ascendancy with Leverkusen and speculation over a possible move to England gain steam, you just have wonder what stunt, if any, Butler may pull.
On the positive side though, Bailey has a chance to become the next Raheem Sterling, though questions over whether he can become as good, or even better than his compatriot from Maverley remain. This season at Manchester City, Sterling finally looks like the player many hoped he would become after his stellar 2013/14 at Liverpool, thanks to the genius of Pep Guardiola. The comparisons to Sterling are overstated and Bailey may well have his day to shine in the Premier League soon, but he must exert patience. Leverkusen is a perfect hub for him to develop and if he polishes his game further, he will be better prepared for a bigger stage.
The game is getting Chippy in Germany and that’s a good thing as the Bundesliga has embraced him as one of its most capable and engaging starlets. Cassava Piece has another star in the making and let us hope, like Mavado has in music, Bailey will be so special for years to come.