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Leon Bailey: full international debut still uncertain

IN DEMAND: Leon Bailey

LEON BAILEY and his father Craig Butler have sensationally made it known that a full international debut is not definite - just 24 hours after the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) issued a positive statement about the 20-year-old Kingston-born winger.

Butler, his father and agent, went public with a Facebook comment that Bailey has not pledged his future to playing for Jamaica's Reggae Boyz. And to heap misery on the JFF Bayer Leverkusen ace Bailey told the German newspaper Bild yesterday that he is still open to which country he represents at international level.

The JFF seemed positive that rising star Bailey, a good friend of Jamaica's legendary sprinter Usain Bolt, would be picked for the Boyz and issued a statement. However, in Bild Bailey has backtracked and told the paper: “Which country I play for is still open."

He explained: "Jamaica's a wonderful country where it’s always summer and the people are happy. But I’m only interested in club football for now. It's been like that for years, but my opinion hasn’t changed and people have to accept that."

Bailey, who joined the Bundesliga team on transfer deadline day last January for an estimated €20m from Belgium's top-flight outfit Genk, is wanted by a clutch of English Premier League sides.

And Bayer Leverkusen have always objected to Bailey competing for Jamaica as the long trips for international matches could prove detrimental to his club form.

But with Bailey courted by Premier League sides, Chelsea's £25m transfer offer turned down this month, then he could be plotting to represent England as it is understood he has some heritage from both England and Malta.

International minnows Malta would not be on the agenda, leaving only England or Jamaica as genuine options. Yet Butler, who founded the Phoenix All Stars Academy in Kingston, where Bailey kicked off his youth career, is damming about the state of the JFF.

His Facebook comment reads: "It must be made clear the position of Leon Bailey, Kyle Butler, Ke-Vaughn Wildshark Atkinson and all Phoenix (Academy players) on the subject of Jamaica's national team.

"We are confident that Jamaica is rife with natural talent. Unfortunately Jamaica has not had a transparent system of selection. And it does not have a uniformed system of development and a method of play that is consistent with our natural strengths.

"So whilst we are willing to meet and hopefully chart the way forward for change in all this, it is a far way off from Leon, Kyle or any of our players committing to play for the country. Let us watch the JFF. They keep jumping the gun. Leon is still not available."

Bailey has donned a Jamaica shirt just once, three years ago as a substitute in the 4-0 triumph over the Cayman Islands at U23 level. And he scored from a free-kick, but was overlooked ever since.

Bailey concluded to Bild: "The transfer to Bayer Leverkusen was exactly the right step for my development, I'm happy here. We have every chance of getting into the Champions League.”

So it seems that the JFF statement was swift to claim Bailey's allegiance and the player has made it clear that club football in Germany is best for him at the moment.

But with the ever astute Butler calling the shots, and the JFF having recently signed a massive shirt sponsorship deal, there should be more twists and turns ahead for Bailey.

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