Ja’s Bai­ley on UEFA’s GOLDEN BOY SHORT­LIST

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS -

HOT-SHOT JA­MAICAN striker Leon Bai­ley cel­e­brated his nom­i­na­tion for the pres­ti­gious UEFA Golden Boy award with a first-half goal in KRC Genk’s 3-1 win over Ital­ian outfit Sas­suolo in the Europa League yes­ter­day.

Bai­ley, 19, con­tin­ued his rise as one of European foot­ball’s most prized young­sters af­ter be­ing named on the 40-man short­list, which con­tains the most im­pres­sive un­der-21 players on the con­ti­nent.

The UEFA Golden Boy award is pre­sented by sports jour­nal­ists to the most im­pres­sive young foot­baller in Europe and has, in the past, been handed to the likes of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Ser­gio Aguero of Manch­ester City, Manch­ester United’s Wayne Rooney, Paul Pogba and An­thony Mar­tial, Alexan­der Pato of Vil­lar­real, Mario Balotelli of French club Nice, and another Ja­maican-born player, Manch­ester City’s Ra­heem Ster­ling.

HOG­GING HEAD­LINES

Bai­ley has been hog­ging head­lines in Bel­gium and across wider Europe af­ter a string of im­pres­sive per­for­mances for his club, which has also seen him linked to sev­eral ma­jor clubs in Eng­land, Spain, and Italy.

The at­tacker, who is yet to be capped by Ja­maica’s se­nior team, scored in the 25th minute to cap a day that saw him listed among the likes of house­hold names Mar­cus Rash­ford (Manch­ester United), Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Bar­bosa (In­ter Mi­lan), Leroy Sane (Manch­ester City), Dele Alli (Tot­ten­ham), Kings­ley Co­man, Re­nato Sanches (Bay­ern Mu­nich), Gian­luigi Don­narumma (AC Mi­lan), Alex Iwobi (Arse­nal), Amadou Di­awara (Napoli) and Marco Asen­sio (Real Madrid).

Yes­ter­day’s net shaker im­proved Bai­ley’s sea­sonal re­turn to seven goals and four as­sists in eight games in all com­pe­ti­tions.

He played a key role in Genk’s qual­i­fi­ca­tion to the Europa League af­ter bag­ging seven goals and serv­ing up 11 as­sists in a break­out sea­son last year, which saw him re­ceiv­ing the nod as the best young player in the Bel­gian top flight.

Bai­ley is the poster boy of Craig Butler’s Pheonix Acad­emy, which has its roots in Ja­maica but has had con­sid­er­able suc­cess in sourc­ing the European mar­ket with young Ja­maican tal­ent, which also in­cludes Butler’s son Kyle, who is also in the Genk sys­tem.

Ja­maica’s Leon Bai­ley of Genk cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing dur­ing the Europa League match be­tween Genk and Sas­suolo at the Cristal Arena in Genk, Bel­gium, yes­ter­day.

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