Leon Bailey has dreamed of playing in the Premier League since he was a kid

Leon Bailey was at it again on Wednesday night. With a hand in the air, a quick nod of the head, and a low, fizzing ball into the near post, the Jamaican delivered Bayer Leverkusen’s opener on a plate for Sven Bender, who nudged it into the far corner with a flick of his left boot.

A short while later, Bailey was involved again, cutting the ball back into the path of Kai Havertz who bundled in the second to set Leverkusen on their way to a 3-1 victory over local rivals Cologne and bounce them back into the top four.

If Leverkusen do make the Champions League, however, they may have to embark on their European tour without Bailey.

Kai Havertz celebrates with Bailey after he set up his goal against Cologne this week

Leon Bailey celebrates after Bayer Leverkusen's Europa League win over Rangers in March

Leon Bailey celebrates after Bayer Leverkusen’s Europa League win over Rangers in March

As Sportsmail reported this week, the Jamaican international could be on his way to Manchester United this summer, with the Red Devils lining up a £40million bid to bring Bailey to Old Trafford.

It would be the latest twist in an extraordinary career, and the realisation of a lifelong dream for the young Jamaican.

‘Fundamentally, my dream has always been, and still is, to play in England,’ he told Bild last year. ‘If I continue to work hard, I am sure that it will work out.’

A forward blessed with explosive pace and excellent dead-ball skills, Bailey established himself alongside Havertz and Julian Brandt as one of a handful of young superstars plying their trade at Leverkusen.

Yet his journey to the top of the German game has been anything but smooth.

Adopted by his agent Craig Butler at the age of five, Bailey learned to play football at Butler’s Phoenix All-Star Academy in Kingston.

Bailey's agent and adoptive father Craig Butler steps off a plane in Bilbao in November 2016

Bailey’s agent and adoptive father Craig Butler steps off a plane in Bilbao in November 2016

A controversial figure to say the least, Butler is a hard task-master who forces his students to play barefoot. ‘My methods are not normal,’ he told Deutsche Welle last year.

Widely understood to be Bailey’s adoptive father, the boundaries between family and business seem somewhat blurred to Butler, who insisted that Bailey could be his son in a recent interview with 11 Freunde magazine.

‘I had a lot of women when I was younger, and I was a good footballer. Leon is my son, leave it at that,’ he said. For his part, Bailey has said that family is not necessarily about blood.

Whatever the relation, it is Butler who takes the credit for Bailey’s rise to the top. As he tells it, the agent sold his car, moved to Europe and worked as a janitor to give both Bailey – nicknamed Chippy – and his step-brother Kyle Butler a shot at becoming professionals.

In a seemingly endless tour of the continent’s trial systems and academies, it was Bailey who made the grade. At the age of just 14, he scored 75 goals in 16 games for the Under 15s at USK Anif.

A few years later, Belgian club Genk picked up the young winger. The move was anything but simple – complicated among other things by FIFA’s rules on signing minors and a brief crisis in which Butler was allegedly kidnapped in Mexico.

The Jamaican winger spent two seasons in Belgium with Genk before moving to Germany

The Jamaican winger spent two seasons in Belgium with Genk before moving to Germany

Yet Bailey ultimately signed for Genk, chalking up seven goals and 11 assists in his first year as a professional.

Those performances earned him a move to Leverkusen, where has since established himself as a first-team regular.

Yet it was only in July last year that Bailey finally made his international debut. Butler’s controversial methods and long-running feud with the Jamaican football authorities put the brakes on Bailey’s national team career. For some time, it was even suggested that he might play for England, Germany or Belgium instead.

Some have speculated that it was FA rules requiring non-EU signings to have made a certain amount of international appearances which forced the decision for Jamaica.

At club level, meanwhile, Bailey has spent the last few years trying to make a case for himself in front of Premier League scouts.

After a fine start to life at Leverkusen, the winger’s form dipped under previous coach Heiko Herrlich before an upturn in fortunes under current boss Peter Bosz.

Bosz’s more attacking style has suited Bailey, although an early promise to play the left-footer in his favoured position on the right wing has not come to fruition.

Bailey celebrates scoring against Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga in November 2019

Bailey celebrates scoring against Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga in November 2019

Nonetheless, the Jamaican has notched up nine goals and three assists since Bosz’s arrival midway through last season, and has made a particular impact in big games.

In March 2019, he curled a thundering free-kick past Manuel Neuer to fire his side to a 3-1 victory over Bayern, and less than a year later he was at it again. In November, the Jamaican fired two past Neuer on the counter-attack to inflict a rare defeat on Hansi Flick’s resurgent Bavarians.

‘It was an unforgettable feeling, it’s something I will carry through life for a very long time,’ said Bailey of that brace in an interview with Sport1 this month.

And with United setting their sights on the young winger, it may also have been a final flourish in his Bundesliga career.

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