The transfer window is officially open, and that means plenty of targets on the horizon. Throughout the summer, we’ll be publishing a series of quickfire interviews on Liverpool’s prospective targets, conducted with the journalists, correspondents, and pundits who know them best.
This time around, we will be discussing one of the most promising young wingers in Europe, Bayern Leverkusen flyer Leon Bailey.
Lending his insight on the young Jamaican is Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth), owner and editor of multi-national football network @FutbolgradLive
Describe Bailey as a player. What are his noticeable strengths and weaknesses?
Leon Bailey is a very quick and agile player. What stands out to me is his ability to quickly change directions, even when under pressure, and his natural pace. Furthermore, Bailey has a bag full of tricks, which he utilises to get himself out of hairy situations.
His biggest weaknesses are consistency at this point. Bailey was fantastic at the beginning of the season and then fell of the wagon towards the end of the season when Bayer was pushing for that Champions League spot.
Furthermore, Bailey is very much guided by his adoptive father – and agent – Kyle Butler. Butler is very outspoken when it comes to Bailey and at times seems to put oil on the fire instead of improving relationships between his “son” and the club he is playing at.
Ultimately, Bailey is a great player, who has the potential to be a fantastic asset. But at this point he is mostly a prospect that still needs maturing to reach the highest level.
What kind of role does he play within Leverkusen’s system?
Leverkusen play a mix of systems. Head coach Heiko Herrlich has employed everything from a 3-5-2, 4-2-2-2, 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3.
In all those setups, Bailey plays on the left-wing in a support role to Leverkusen’s forward,s Kevin Volland and Lucas Alario. Heiko Herrlich is one of the up-and-coming coaches in German football and likes to vary his system, yet Bailey consistently played the same role even if the system changed for Leverkusen.
That indicates to me that Herrlich either wants to have him pressed into a specific duty, or that Bailey does lack a bit of tactical flexibility at this point.
Either of his roles has been important. Earlier this season he was described as the can opener – someone who makes the decisive pass or scores the decisive goal in order to get Leverkusen going.
How have you seen him progress in his season (and change) at the club?
Difficult question. I think that early on he was fantastic and seemed to have made a big step forward from last season. Bayer very much saw him as a project when they signed him last winter and did not expect major things right away.
Then at the beginning of the season he was the club’s most important player. But in a way he also dropped off towards the end of the year – which again shows me that there is some room for improvement.
I would, therefore, say that in terms of development, this season has been a mixed bag for him. On the one hand he has improved from last year on the other hand when it mattered he was not there for the club.
Regarding the Liverpool links, do you see him as a potential fit within Klopp’s system? The Premier League? Why or why not?
Good players fit into any system. Do I think he would be a good fit? I do think that after 18 months in Germany, he would be adapt to play the high pressing style that LFC employ.
At the same time, his consistency would worry me. It shows that he still needs to mature and work on fitness, which can hurt you when you are forced to play in what is after all a very demanding setup.
I think we have seen in the past that technical players like Bailey have an easy time adapting from the Bundesliga to the English Premier League. One example that stands out to me is Leroy Sané, who has done very well in England.
Do you expect Leon Bailey to leave Leverkusen? If so, where do you expect to be the most likely destination?
That is a good question. His agent is the sort of character that could push a move. But then news emerged ahead of England’s World Cup squad announcement that Bailey may see his personal future with the German national team.
In order to fulfill residency requirements, he would have to stay in Germany for three and a half more seasons. Hence, if he is really serious about playing for Germany, a move to England at this point would be impossible.
As a result, it might be more likely that Bailey will eventually join a top club in Germany – Bayern or Dortmund. Should he, however, give up his dream to play for Germany and make a move abroad I think that his most likely destination will be one of the London based clubs.