Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey has refused to pledge his international future to Jamaica. Could Belgium, England or even Germany benefit?
The Kingston-born 20-year-old has represented his country of birth once at U23 level - scoring a free-kick in his hitherto only international appearance, against the Cayman Islands in March 2015 - but after a stunning start to the 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign, he says his international future could lie further afield.
“It's been like that for years, but my opinion hasn’t changed and people have to accept that,” the attacker, who has eight goals and six assists to his name this term, told Bild. “Which country I play for is still open.”
Watch: Bailey has set the Bundesliga alight this season!
The statement is bound to pique the interest of several potential suitors: Bailey’s output makes him the league’s most productive wide man this season, ahead of Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben and RB Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg; but who might stand to gain?
Bailey arrived at Leverkusen from Genk on the final day of the January 2017 transfer window after two years in Belgium, but with naturalised citizenship in the country requiring five years of uninterrupted habitation, Bailey would have to marry a Belgian to attain that passport. The length of residency required in Germany is normally eight years, meanwhile.
bundesliga.com has been told by a source close to the player that Bailey has “English ancestry; Malta by merit options,” though the chances of the attacker electing to turn out for the latter, ranked 158th in the world, would seem infinitesimally small, eligible or not. Not that Bailey is desperate to change his international allegiance.
“Jamaica is a wonderful country where it’s always summer and the people are happy,” he continued to Bild, “but I’m only interested in club football for now.”
Whomever Bailey one day lines up for internationally, they are sure to be a stronger team for his presence.