Everton are going to be fine, even after their lackluster effort against West Ham on New Year’s Day. While Sami Khedira could find himself on Merseyside and others could still find themselves on the outs so to speak, bigger names like Isco still tempt for their talent, versatility, CV and ambition of course. Yet another name that remains both intriguing and perhaps more ambitious than reality permits, is Leon Bailey of Bayern Leverkusen. Everton need offensive reinforcement, there is simply no two ways around it.
While I persist that Moise Kean should be considered a solution to depth, I also understand why selling him would be appealing as well. Bernard looks to be on his way out of the club and Theo Walcott is not coming back from Southampton, which leaves just Richarlison, James Rodriguez, Alex Iwobi and Anthony Gordon as wide players on this squad.
In any event, Leon Bailey offers versatility, ambition, technical ability, and all at a proper age for all parties to benefit best for years to come. While the price tag might have been off putting for previous Everton squads and bosses, Carlo Ancelotti has thus far demonstrated improvement across the club and deserves further backing to continue the push to Europe that is very much in his teams grasp as the January window is very much here and open.
Leon Bailey: The Offensive Utility man Don Carlo could use across his front Three
I have spoken about a good number of offensive pieces that I believe could be useful on the team, as many of you have read over the week and months. Yet Leon Bailey is capable of doing something that only Hirving Lozano has notable experience in doing: playing all three positions across the attacking front three of a 4-3-3.
The need for such a player I believe has been exposed before, but was particularly demonstrated in just the last match. When the starting offensive pieces had no answer for the staunch defense that former boss David Moyes organized with his Hammers, Cenk Tosun was the response that the skipper had to replace the usually remarkable Dominic Calvert-Lewin. For a team with such talent and ability, as well as coaching, that is simply unacceptable; Pep gets Jesus (literally) and the Don is left with Cenk Tosun? No.
While the reluctance for pieces like Isco, Zaha, Thomas Lemar (who is unlikely with Atletico Madrid’s current form), Arkadiusz Milik and others is understandable because of long term chemistry and finances, Leon Bailey, like Lozano before him, presents ability and versatility that cannot be ignored, even for a premium price tag.
At just 23-years-of-age, his fit in the rotation with Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Alex Iwobi and James Rodriguez would be absolutely sensational. With Leverkusen this season across all competitions, he has thirteen appearances, four goals and five assists. To come to a side with equal youthful vigor, plus a world class, legendary football teacher/boss, the Jamaican, who identifies predominantly as a right winger, would be in the midst of greatness, helping to write the greatness of Everton for seasons to come.
The 23-year-old is equally comfortable playing as a wide-man in a 4-2-3-1 and as a wingback in a 3-4-3, both of which are formations Ancelotti has used. Here’s an excerpt from a scouting report about the gifted youngster who has set the Bundesliga alight -
Bailey is also one of the fastest players in the Bundesliga. His quick feet and acceleration help him beat a man in 1-v-1/s very easily, which coupled with his impressive close control and dribbling, provides a great profile for any winger. In wide areas, Bailey loves cutting in and dribbling past the opponent. Another advantage of his incredible pace is difficult to track when he decides to make smart runs in and around the box and ultimately be on the receiving end to a through-ball. Bailey thus proves to be a threat both in possession of the ball and off of it and provides for effective combination play.
His biggest weapon is his pace and dribbling ability, not unlike Adama Traore of Wolves who is able to strike fear in his marker’s eyes every time the ball settles at his feet and allows him to make a cut and then blaze past. For Blues weary of watching Seamus Coleman hit the first man in front of him and Alex Iwobi inversely waft his crosses towards the stands, Bailey will come as a relief with his crossing accuracy from the left among the top in the Bundesliga.
In a tight match, with three points on the line, and with few answers from the usual suspects of the squad, it is not difficult to imagine super-sub Leon Bailey entering the game. Yet his arrival is not met with groans, but with joy, as is the goal or assist he delivers shortly after arriving onto the pitch. That’s because the young man is full of energy, full of passion and creativity from out wide, yet composed in front of net, whether he begins or simply ends up in that position. Bernard Duarte too may be obsolete with his transfer, but that’s ok as well, for Italy is calling the Brazilian, just as other English clubs call for the Tosun.
As versatility is the name of the game when it comes to football, as with life in general, the ability to come in to a game as a left or right winger, or even as centre forward, gives the Toffees a lot of combination with which to attack opposition with. Without a prime piece to come off the bench, we as a club are relying to heavily on our remarkably talented starting squads, but the best clubs could field two clubs out of their combined talent on the pitch and in the seats. With one like him, we could be a team that scores even more goals than we already have this campaign, ruthlessly and consistently.
To that end, would the cheap signature of Isco hurt? Absolutely not, and just like that of Khedira’s, were it to come for the right price, how could one not be excited by the prospect? These players have experience and versatility to add to the squad as well, yet Leon Bailey is very much a foundational piece to acquire, and so if reasonable, should be pursued.
Bailey signed a new five-year deal at Leverkusen in 2018 but with the German side sitting in third place in the Bundesliga and topping their group in the Europa League, Leverkusen will not be interested in selling the player unless Don Carlo and Everton make them an offer they can’t refuse. He is on a very reasonable €75,000 (£68,000) per week wage, which is about the median at the Toffees.
Just this season the youngster has banged in nine goals and seven assists in 19 games in all competitions, with 33 goals and 22 assists in a total of 135 games for the German side.
Backup for the rest of the Season in January is simply Business as usual across Europe
While Everton under Marcel Brands are not the biggest fans of the January Transfer window, it must simply be seen as a very real part of the football campaign. Every club with ambitions does something during this period, unless they’re simply so set that they need nothing; even in those circumstances often, the rich become richer still. And so should Everton wish to be like those massive clubs, in contention year in and year out, they will have to not only perform how those clubs perform, but act as those clubs act during transfer periods as well.
While Milik would be a good signing if Napoli lowered their current evaluation, Bailey is not only a functional, utilitarian transfer, he is also a statement of intent. Signing Don Carlo was a start, of which was followed by the acquisition of talent from places like Madrid, Watford and Napoli. Bringing a major talent like Bailey would be just the next proclamation by the Royal Blue of Merseyside that no match in Goodison, on Merseyside, will be a walk in the park.
It is not essential to make a major signing in January from an Everton perspective, that is true. Yet rewarding the clubs progress with further backing and support is essential, and in the position we are in to finish the Premier League with UCL or Europa qualification, it would almost be disappointing not to see something. Leon Bailey has become my favorite offensively speaking, but whoever it is, should they be desired by the boss, they will play an important role moving forward in this season and beyond.