IN DEMAND: Leon Bailey
LEON BAILEY, the Kingston-born whizzy winger, could represent the Reggae Boyz after the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) announced that they are prepared to enter negotiations with his stepfather and agent Craig Butler.
The 22-year-old ace, who plies his trade in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen, has represented the Boyz just once – as a substitute in an U23 friendly against neighbouring Cayman Islands.
But he has yet to make a senior international appearance as Butler has had a long-term stand-off with the JFF.
After implications earlier this year that the brilliant Bailey – wanted by a string of English Premier League clubs – had the option to represent England, Belgium or Malta instead of Jamaica, nothing happened so Butler is now seriously considering ending his impassé with the JFF to enhance Bailey’s career.
Fresh talks are due to take place between Butler, founder of Kingston’s Phoenix Allstars Academy, with JFF president Michael Ricketts and Jamaica’s head coach Theodore Whitmore.
But Butler will undoubtedly be pushing for other Phoenix Allstars graduates to be part of the Jamaica squad, having seen Whitmore mastermind bringing in island-based players for international duty rather than rely on overseas stars who have a remote association to represent the Boyz.
Ricketts explained: “We’ve always said when Leon Bailey is ready to play, we are ready.
“I don’t know how much mediation he needs. So it’s is just for him to make himself available. I’m pretty certain the coach will be ready for him.”
Bailey has been a big hit in the German top-flight, impressing in the Bundesliga with his trademark ability to cut inside on his left foot and press for goals. Last term he was involved in 18 strikes across all competitions that caught the attention of Bayern Munich as well as English giants Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.
Butler turned down a bid for Bailey to Chelsea last term, but with Maurizio Sarri replacing fellow Italian Antonio Conte as head coach at the London club then Bailey’s brand of free-flowing football could be embraced once the January transfer market kicks off.
By then Bailey could be an international star and Butler sees the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar to showcase his prodigy.
Butler said: “If the JFF is willing to sit with me and a mediator to ensure all is fair going in, I’m willing to consider letting go of the past and walk side by side with my countrymen to World Cup victory.
“We’ve considered our country and how important it is to us, and have decided to make one last effort to reconcile with the JFF in the best interest of Jamaica.”
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