The Jamaican winger amassed more admirers after some eye-catching displays for Die Werkself last season, scoring nine Bundesliga goals and assisting six more.
Bayern Munich reportedly bid €60 million for Bailey’s services over the summer but links with the biggest names are nothing new for the 21-year-old, who preferred to kick off his senior career at Belgian side Genk when he could have joined Chelsea.
Speaking exclusively in the December 2018 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, out in shops and on iPad from Wednesday, Bailey says: “Chelsea have been interested in me since I was maybe 14 or 15, but as a young player you want to start on a normal level and not just go there because of the name of the club.
“You want to develop in the right environment; around the right minds and mentality. Genk was right for me at that moment – I fitted right into the youth system perfectly. That’s where I wanted to start, so I went for it.”
Bailey fitted right into the first team, too. By the end of his first campaign for KRC he’d scored seven goals to help them seal Europa League qualification, and netted against Rapid Vienna, Sassuolo and Athletic Bilbao the following season as De Smurfen reached the quarter-finals.
His list of Premier League suitors had expanded by the time he left Genk in January 2017, but Leverkusen got the nod with game time again at the forefront of Bailey’s mind.
“Manchester United, City, Chelsea, Liverpool – a lot of clubs were interested,” the Jamaican reveals. “But the most important thing as a pro is taking things a step at a time and not rushing to the top too quickly. Because once you get there, where do you go next?
“I believe the right timing is important, and it was the right moment to be at Bayer Leverkusen. They are a tremendous club with so much history. A lot of good players have come from there; they can get into the Champions League and are always doing well. So why not them? It was the perfect move for me and I’m happy I made it.
“My focus isn’t really on moving anywhere yet. I’m just about what’s happening right now rather than what could happen in the future. I’m still learning.”
Read the full interview with Leon Bailey in the December 2018 issue of FourFourTwo, in which we chat to Zlatan Ibrahimovic about life in LA and tackling Donald Trump. We also meet Manchester United’s newest Brazilian midfielder Fred, remember when British bosses ruled La Liga, learn everything there is to know about commentating, and ask what happened to former Inter striker Adriano? Plus, Bruce Grobbelaar explains how fighting in the Rhodesian Bush War as a teenager helped him stand up to King Kenny at Liverpool. Order a copy, then subscribe!
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Joe is the Deputy Editor at FourFourTwo, having risen through the FFT academy and been on the brand since 2013 in various capacities.
By weekend and frustrating midweek night he is a Leicester City fan, and in 2020 co-wrote the autobiography of former Foxes winger Matt Piper – subsequently listed for both the Telegraph and William Hill Sports Book of the Year awards.
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