Aston Villa have confirmed an agreement has been reached with Bayer Leverkusen for the transfer of Leon Bailey.
Villa are at the centre of one of the transfer window’s biggest stories, with captain Jack Grealish reportedly the subject of a £100million bid from Premier League champions Manchester City.
However, while it remains to be seen where Grealish – who is rumoured to have been offered a new contract by Villa – will play in 2021-22, Dean Smith is set to bolster his attack with the addition of Bailey.
A Jamaica international, Bailey scored 15 goals and provided 10 assists for Bundesliga side Leverkusen across 40 appearances in all competitions last term.
Versatile and with a wicked turn of pace, the 23-year-old, who joined Leverkusen from Belgian side Genk in 2017, will sign for Villa subject to completing a medical and finalising personal terms, according to a statement on the club’s official website.
No fee has been confirmed, though reports suggested Leverkusen were looking to recoup at least £30m for Bailey.
Once the deal is complete, Bailey will become Villa’s third major signing of the transfer window, after the additions of Emiliano Buendia and Ashley Young, for £33m and on a free transfer respectively.
Buendia’s former Norwich City team-mate Tom Cantwell is also being heavily linked as Villa look to push for Europe with or without their talisman Grealish.
COULD BAILEY REPLACE GREALISH?
Though not exactly similar in style, both Grealish and Bailey occupy a position in the front line.
While Bailey has more pace to stretch defences, Grealish prefers to get on the ball in between the lines. However, Bailey certainly has the ability to link up with his fellow attackers.
Bailey played 13 games more than Grealish last season, with the latter tallying up seven goals and 10 assists, creating a total of 85 chances.
In contrast, Bailey crafted 63 goalscoring opportunities, also creating four fewer “big chances”.
But Bailey had more shots (84 compared to 53), and registered an improved shot conversion rate of 17.86 per cent in contrast to Grealish’s 13.21 per cent.
While not a traditional winger, Bailey played a pass into the box (including crosses) 224 times, 63 times more than Grealish, at an average of 7.04 per 90 minutes.
He also attempted more dribbles (5.38) per 90 minutes than Grealish (4.59), though the England international boasted a better completion rate of 2.73 per 90 – Bailey managing 2.64 successful dribbles every 90 minutes.
Should Grealish leave, Villa will at least have Buendia to help Bailey fill the creative void, while the potential addition of Cantwell would add a further runner from midfield to support Ollie Watkins.
Grealish may well still stay put, however, and if so, Smith will know European qualification has to be the aim following an 11th-place finish last season.