Despite the upcoming summer window being clouded with uncertainty due to the ongoing global pandemic, football fans look set to watch at least one huge transfer saga unfold.
All eyes are on Jadon Sancho, as the Borussia Dortmund winger is continually linked with a big money move to Manchester United. While Chelsea were previously linked with Sancho, the signing of Hakim Ziyech seems to have cooled their interest in the 20-year-old. The same can't be said for United, however, who still look fairly hellbent on doing whatever it takes to bring him to Old Trafford.
However, the current pandemic has shaken the financial stability around football and has resulted in a lot of clubs rethinking their transfer plans. Liverpool are set to miss out on RB Leipzig's Timo Werner after refusing to meet his £53m price tag, which has set the tone for other clubs to follow similar policies.
And while Man Utd are very much in for Sancho, if a deal falls through, It has been reported that see Leon Bailey as a perfect consolation prize; seeing him as a cheaper alternative to Sancho this summer. If the Red Devils do opt to move for Bailey, however, he might not prove to be the like-for-like Sancho alternative they imagine him to be.
Bailey initially impressed at Belgian outfit Genk after signing in 2015, winning the Belgian Young Footballer of the Year award for 2015/16 season. His strike versus Rapid Wien in September 2016 then won him the 2016/17 Europa League goal of the season, which put a number of top European sides on alert. Despite interest from within the Premier League, Bailey signed with Leverkusen in January 2017 due to guarantees of more regular game time.
His stock has continued to rise since heading to Die Werkself. He managed 12 goals and six assists in his first full season with the club and notched a less impressive, yet still respectable, five goals and five assists last season. He currently has seven goals and two assists to his name in 27 appearances this season, and will hope to make it into double figures now play has restarted in Germany.
While the numbers aren't as impressive as Sancho's, Bailey still has a lot to offer. He's lightning quick, makes intelligent runs in behind - usually timing them to perfection. Both Sancho and Bailey also understand how to position themselves, and like to use the width of the pitch to their advantage, creating gaps in the opponents' defence.
The pair are similar in this way but in truth, that's where the similarities end.
Sancho is admittedly much more creative than Bailey. While Bailey looks to get in behind, or hold a position out wide and move the ball on once more, Sancho is happier to use his position to take on defenders.
So far this season, the England international averages 2.7 dribbles per game and 2.2 key passes per game in all competitions; meanwhile, Bailey averages a significantly lower 1.4 dribbles per game and 0.9 key passes per game. The Jamaican still is capable of providing an outlet for his side, but is by no means as creative and direct as Sancho throughout the 90 minutes.
While Bailey is less creative, his pace is undeniable and will cause any defence a problem. With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer often setting up his side to play on the counter, Bailey could well play a part in a pacy front four in United's preferred 4-2-3-1.
Another sticking point, however, is his position.
Bailey has played most of his football in recent seasons on the left wing, which is perhaps the only position where United actually don't need to strengthen.
Initially, it seems like a write off, but Bailey is capable of playing on the right-hand side and actually played there earlier on in his career. Similar to the way Daniel James plays at Old Trafford, he might just find some success cutting inside from the right to use his left foot.
United have been crying out for a true right winger for years at this point, though, and shouldn't be settling for a compromise option, nor should Bailey be reduced to being a compromise option.
Leon Bailey is undoubtedly an exciting young player with a bright future ahead of him. Regardless of what this summer brings, his development suggests that a move to a bigger club within Europe will come soon enough.
The current climate of the transfer market might be the catalyst in making that move happen sooner than expected, but it would be incorrect to suggest that he is the ultimate, like-for-like, cheaper alternative to Jadon Sancho.
Source : 90min