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Ja's Bailey on UEFA's Golden Boy shortlist

Published:Friday | September 30, 2016 | 9:00 AMAndre Lowe
Jamaica's Leon Bailey of Genk celebrates after scoring during the Europa League group stage between Genk and Sassuolo at the Cristal Arena in Genk, Belgium yesterday.

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.

HOGGINGHEADLINES

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.

andre.lowe@gleanerjm.com