Manchester City are reportedly closely monitoring Bayer Leverkusen’s 22-year-old star Leon Bailey and see him as an ideal replacement for Leroy Sane, according to the Daily Mail.
Bailey is one of Europe’s rising stars, and while he has struggled for game time this season he has certainly earned a place on the wish list of clubs across Europe.
Sane, meanwhile, could leave the club this summer for Bayern Munich. Here’s how Bailey would fit in with Pep Guardiola’s tactics – and the areas he still needs to improve.
Bailey can replace Sane’s penetrating runs
City have been off the pace in the Premier League this season, and one reason for that is the loss of Sane’s particular movements down the left.
The German was a key player for Guardiola during City’s Centurion year, making late runs in behind the opposition right-back from the edge of the penalty area, using his acceleration to get beyond his man and – receiving a pass over the top – feed a ball to the back post for a tap-in.
That feature has disappeared since City lost his penetrative movement, but could come back if Bailey joins the club. The 22-year-old is regularly expected to make runs on the shoulder of the last defender at counter-attacking Leverkusen, and with some tutoring can fill Sane’s tactical role in the final third.
Has the dribbling skills to do more damage from the byline
Once Bailey gets into those Sane-like positions, he could do considerably more damage than the German.
Bailey’s close control and dribbling is exceptional, with the winger regularly turning defenders inside and out to create space before playing the final ball. His style of dribbling – with sharp angles and step-overs – is similar to Riyad Mahrez, only with more speed to back it up.
That means Bailey can both replace Sane and add to the creativity on that left flank. Whereas the Bayern target is occasionally one-dimensional, Bailey keeps opponents guessing.
Bailey has the versatility to suggest he would absorb Guardiola’s tactics
The Jamaica international prefers to play on the right wing but is more regularly deployed on the left, which is surely where Guardiola would field him given City have Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, and Raheem Sterling already.
Bailey has also been deployed in a central position before, and indeed regularly drifts across the width of the pitch under Peter Bosz, whose tactical philosophy requires the forwards to regularly exchange positions.
That suggests Bailey has the intelligence and positional awareness to absorb the complex tactics that Guardiola demands of his players.
Areas Bailey still needs to improve
But the 22-year-old is far from the finished product. He needs to improve his goal contributions, with just 12 in the last two years in the Bundesliga, and indeed that decision-making in the final third is worse than Sane’s.
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Bailey can be guilty of dallying on the ball for too long, trying to find space for the perfect pass rather than release it early, and he isn’t quite up to scratch when it comes to crossing from out wide.
However, he has all the raw attributes to move to the next level with the world-class coaching at City, and overall would undoubtedly be an excellent addition to the squad.