Leon Bailey, Perhaps Concacaf’s Best Young Player, Finally Agrees To Jamaica Call-Up
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In great news for Jamaica, the 2019 Gold Cup and fans attending the USMNT’s upcoming friendly against the Reggae Boyz at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., 21-year-old Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey is reportedly finally set to make his international debut for the side after years of disputes between the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), the player and his representative, step-father Craig Butler.
According to Butler, Bailey will make his debut on June 5 against the U.S. before representing his country at the Gold Cup. Jamaica opens group play against Honduras at Independence Park in Kingston before heading stateside for matches against El Salvador (Houston) and Curaçao (Los Angeles).
The young star immediately becomes one of the players to watch at this summer’s tournament.
Last season, he was a revelation in Europe while scoring nine goals and adding six assists in 30 appearances to help the club qualify for the Europa League. He was a reported transfer target for Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea with a price tag of over $100 million.
Many of those strikes were simply sensational.
His stats have dipped somewhat this season, as he has five goals and one assist in 29 Bundesliga matches to go along with two assists in the Europa League. However, he’s still been a key performer in a side that’s battling to finish fourth in Germany. He also scored a stunner against Bayern Munich.
One of the points of dispute between Bailey and the JFF was a pretty strong flex from the player and his representative: they wanted Leon’s half-brother (Craig Butler’s son) Kyle Butler to be involved.
Kyle, 21, spent this last season on loan at FC Juniors OÖ in the Austrian second division. He won’t be with Jamaica’s senior side at the Gold Cup, but he’ll play for Jamaica’s U-23 squad at a string of upcoming Olympic Games qualifiers.
“Leon Bailey will be called because the coach and I have had discussions recently, and he will be invited both for the friendly in the U.S. and also for the Gold Cup tournament,” said JFF president Michael Ricketts. “I think that coach (Donovan) Duckie has interest for the brother (Kyle) for the Olympic squad because he did indicate to me that he has an interest in inviting him for the Olympic squad.
“We are looking forward to having them here, and we just hope that we will be able to put the past behind us and just restart the whole thing of just having him (Bailey) in the national set up.”
Jamaica last qualified for the World Cup in 1998 — it’s only appearance at the finals — but the Reggae Boyz have finished runners-up in both of the last Gold Cups (losing to Mexico in 2015 and the USMNT in 2017).
Other key members of the squad include the Philadelphia Union’s Andre Blake and FC Cincinnati’s Darren Mattocks.