Even Bayern Munich's roadrunner Alphonso Davies (l.) had his hands full up against the blistering pace of Leon Bailey (r.). - © DFL
Even Bayern Munich's roadrunner Alphonso Davies (l.) had his hands full up against the blistering pace of Leon Bailey (r.). - © DFL
bundesliga

Leon Bailey: Aston Villa's Jamaican winger made in the Bundesliga

After dribbling his way around the Bundesliga, Leon Bailey is set to torment English Premier League defenders after completing a move from Bayer Leverkusen to Aston Villa.

The fastest man in the world was Usain Bolt when his close friend Bailey arrived in the Bundesliga from Genk in January 2017, and although he could not match his compatriot's pace in settling into his new surroundings, as soon as he did find his feet, he made up ground in the style of an Olympic sprint champion.

Bailey struck nine goals and added six assists in 30 appearances in his first full season with Leverkusen, averaging 29 sprints per game and taking on an opponent on average 19.8 times per 90 minutes.

Watch: The best of Leon Bailey in the Bundesliga

Just when it looked like his career was taking off, Bailey's progress stalled somewhat in 2018/19. The Jamaican made 16 Bundesliga appearances under Heiko Herrlich in the first half of the campaign, but only eight of those came as a member of the starting line-up. By the winter break, he had just a goal and an assist to his name.

The arrival of Peter Bosz as coach in early 2019 was like a shot in the arm for Bailey. "I'd say Peter Bosz being here is a big thing for me because he has a different style of play, and I didn't feature much in the first part of the season," Bailey told bundesliga.com. "It's perfect for me because he likes my style of play and I like how he wants us to play. I think it's going to help the team a lot and it's also going to help the way I play."

Bosz’s brand of eye-catching attacking football saw the goals flow freely, with only Bayern Munich bettering Leverkusen's tally of 43 in a memorable Rückrunde that saw them snatch fourth place on the final day, earning Leverkusen and Bailey a place at European football's top-table.

While Bailey didn't quite hit the heights of his jaw-dropping performances from the 2017/18 season, it was clear for all to see that the Jamaican's new lease of life on Leverkusen's left flank had restored his confidence.

Injuries have too often interfered with Bailey's best-laid plans, limiting him to just three outings in the UEFA Champions League in 2019/20 and just 22 in the Bundesliga, although his productivity has been a constant with five goals and three assists to help Die Werkself snatch a place in the UEFA Europa League in 2020/21 – his best season to date.

"Leon had it very hard, last year and early this season," Bosz said as he oversaw the Jamaican's explosion at the start of last season. "I see that he gets better with every game - physically, but also in terms of his football." Bailey proved to Bosz that he could be trusted to play a big role in the Leverkusen attack, providing two assists in a 6-2 rout of French Ligue 1 side Nice in the Europa League, one of which struck a chord with the former Borussia Dortmund coach.

"When you see how much he runs, but also how much he sprints and his football playing quality, that's always going up," Bosz added. "In the game against Nice, the first goal he set-up for Nadiem Amiri was really great. He improves every game."

Watch: Bailey back to his best in the winter of 2020/21

Five goals followed in the Europa League, while he netted nine in the Bundesliga and supplied a further nine to help Leverkusen end a tricky season with renewed Europa League qualification. In the process, Bailey put his name back towards the top of the target list for many of Europe's top clubs, with Liverpool having shown an interest over the winter.

"I've been on top form this season physically, emotionally, and mentally," Bailey told bundesliga.com. "I feel so good that I can play every game for 90 minutes and keep going. My body's in good shape right now and I've been working hard on it to stay in good shape. It's been doing great so far and I've been feeling great."

He moves to Villa, convinced he can get even better.

"There's always room for improvement," he said. "I need to take my chances and be more vicious in front of goal. I think that's something I really need to work on."

After terrorising Bundesliga full-backs for four years, Bailey now has their Premier League counterparts in his crosshairs, together with their goalkeepers, who should feel the full force of Bailey's Bundesliga background and his self-proclaimed bid to become even more vicious for the Villains.