Berlin (AFP) – Bayer Leverkusen forward Leon Bailey plans to prove against Bayern Munich on Friday that the Jamaican winger is even quicker with the ball at his feet than close friend Usain Bolt as the Bundesliga returns from its winter break this weekend.
Fourth-placed Leverkusen reopen proceedings on Friday with a mouth-watering clash at home to run-away league leaders Bayern, who have an 11-point lead over nearest rival Schalke.
Pacy Kingston-born winger Bailey is friends with Jamaica sprint legend Bolt, who last weekend revealed that he wants to launch his football career with a trial at Borussia Dortmund in March.
Bolt, 31, bowed out of athletics last year as the 100m and 200m world record holder over 100m and 200m, but Bailey jokes that he is faster of the pair on the pitch.
“I’ve been friends with Usain for four years now, we play football and hang out sometimes, he’s a good person,” 20-year-old Bailey told Bundesliga.com after posting a picture of himself alongside Bolt last month.
“Obviously, I am much faster on the football pitch with the ball, but on the track, he’s the fastest for sure.”
Bailey, 20, has reportedly attracted the attention of Premier League sides Arsenal and Chelsea after eye-catching displays in Germany’s top flight.
“Basically, England was and still is my dream,” Bailey told Germany daily Bild.
“I have a dream club, but I won’t say who and if I keep working hard, I’m sure it will work someday.”
A 14-match unbeaten run has allowed Leverkusen to climb the league table, and with Bailey in red-hot form they are bidding to become only the third club after Hoffenheim and Borussia Moenchengladbach to beat Bayern in the German league this season.
Bailey has scored six goals in 14 Bundesliga appearances and has played a big part in Leverkusen’s rise this season.
His clash at Leverkusen’s BayArena with Bayern right-back Joshua Kimmich is set to be an interesting sideshow on Friday providing Germany defender Kimmich shakes off a cold.
With his pace, Bailey is a menace down the wing, providing four assists to add to those six league goals, which include two strikes in the thrilling 4-4 draw at Hanover 96 just before the winter break.
He proved his temperament on the big stage with goals against Schalke, Borussia Moenchengladbach and Cologne in the space of four league games last September and October.
– Future open –
Bailey struggled to cope with the occasion when Leverkusen lost 3-1 at Munich’s Allianz Arena in August, but learnt from the experience.
“I never look back, because you can’t change the past,” Bailey said.
“That was certainly not my best game, I made mistakes, but I have learnt from that.
“We already have a few expectations (for Friday’s game), Bayern are one of the best teams in the world, but we are in great shape.”
Bailey seized his chance to impress when Leverkusen lured him from Belgian side KRC Genk in January 2017 on a five-year deal.
His international career is still open.
He scored with a free-kick on his only appearance for Jamaica’s Under-23s and has no plans to commit to his Caribbean home country, but reportedly has links to England.
“It’s been like that for years, but my opinion hasn’t changed and people have to accept that,” Bailey told Bild.
“Which country I play for is still open.”
Nevertheless, Leverkusen hope Bailey can help them claim a top four finish in May to qualify for the Champions League next season.
“We bought him with an eye on this season,” said Leverkusen’s sports director Rudi Voeller.
“He’s an unusually quick, very tricky player who will give our attack an additional boost.
“We’re sure Leon Bailey will be a big hit for us.”
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