ALVISE CAGNAZZO: Rafael Leao would thrive in Guardiola's Man City side

ALVISE CAGNAZZO: Rafael Leao is a unique talent who humiliates opponents with his strength and speed… Manchester City and Chelsea want to sign him, but the AC Milan star would be a devastating addition to Pep Guardiola’s side

  • Rafael Leao has become a key player for AC Milan over the last 12 months
  • The 23-year-old played a starring role in Milan’s Scudetto triumph last season
  • His speed and strength make him a nightmare for defences to try to contain
  • Manchester City and Chelsea are both interested in signing Leao in 2023
  • Leao would be a brilliant signing for City as he would suit Pep Guardiola’s team 

AC Milan winger Rafael Leao is a player who has radically changed the way of attacking spaces in Serie A. 

His physical strength is devastating and his pace allows him to glide past opponents with incredible ease. 

Like Ronaldinho, Leao always smiles and this endears him to supporters – children are in love with him because he seems to play with the typical ease of adolescents in the gardens and public parks of the city. 

Rafael Leao has become a popular player in Serie A and always plays with a smile on his face

He takes his fair share of kicks and blows during matches, but is always there in the middle of the field to take the game to the opposition.

Milan’s RedBird owners will have to allocate a lot of money as soon as possible to keep the young superstar who has conquered Serie A. Right now, there is a serious risk of him leaving the city of Milan for purely economic reasons. 

Leao’s greatest dream, as reported by Corriere dello Sport, is to renew his contract with the Rossoneri but his salary demands may become a serious problem.

Milan’s proposal is stuck at €4.5m (£4m) for five years and the difference between supply and demand is too high to give hope for a happy ending to the most talked about story on the Italian market.

Leao could be devastating at Manchester City

Leao overwhelms everything and everyone with impressive speed, he is a quality winger that would be perfect in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side. 

His skill is to ridicule opponents by breezing past them with his speed. To combat this, many Italian coaches have chosen to double-up on him, instructing a winger to help out their defensive full-back.

With Haaland at the centre of the attack, Leao would have a reference point around which he could turn and run freely, without being tracked by two defenders, allowing him to further improve his qualities. 

When Marco Giampaolo became the AC Milan manager several years ago, Leao struggled because the football played by the team under this coach was too rich in patterns and lacked imagination and freedom.

The AC Milan star would be the perfect addition to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team

The 23-year-old winger could form a lethal partnership with Erling Haaland at Manchester City

Leao seems to have been born to play in a team like Pep Guardiola’s and this possibility could very soon become a reality. 

According to Corriere dello Sport, Chelsea also want to buy the Portuguese forward but the feeling is that the attacking tandem formed by Haaland and Leao could be devastating for every opposing defence, and Milan’s unique talent would be very happy to play with the Norwegian striker.

To get 100% out of Leao it is necessary to preserve his tactical freedom and his desire to hurt teams in the final third. 

The Milan star must be tactically considered as completely isolated from the rest of team in the defensive phase so as not to diminish his killer instinct in attack.

From zero to hero 

Milan would have to reach up to €6m (£5.4m) per season to convince Leao to stay, but even that may not be enough because there is a dispute of around €19m (£17m) with Sporting Lisbon, as reported by Gazzetta dello Sport. 

Leao had unilaterally terminated the contract with Sporting in 2018 along with many of his team-mates for a violent attack by Portuguese fans at the club’s sports centre after failing to qualify for the Champions League. 

He then found an agreement with Lille on a free transfer, only to be bought by Milan in the summer of 2019 for €23m (£20.6m) in cash.  

Milan now understand that to solve the case Leão must first untie the knot with Sporting and, as expected, in these cases they could be forced to “buy back” the player by paying the money he must give to his former club. A delicate situation which could make the club desist from spending more unexpected money.  

Leao’s situation has become complicated by a dispute with his former club, Sporting Lisbon

From that moment, with the move to Italy, his career has changed and today he aspires to be a top player on the pitch while also being well-remunerated.

According to Tuttosport, the Portuguese star currently earns €2m (£1.8m) a year from Milan. 

That is too little for the level reached by Leao, and too little to keep him in Italy. City and Chelsea want Leao and are ready to comply with his requests. 

Powerful agent Jorge Mendes is asking for €7m (£6.3m) per year for five years and Leao would be delighted to finally be able to experience the Premier League.

2024 problem

Leao’s contract expires in 2024 and the fear of losing an immense technical and physical talent is now reasonably high. 

He was born in 1999, and is potentially one of the top five forwards in Europe under the age of 25. Only a few months ago, he was voted the best player in Serie A after leading Milan to the Scudetto. 

According to Italian media, the player has a €150m (£135m) release clause but with a contract expiry so close, no club would offer all this money to Paolo Maldini’s club. 

Without the renewal of his contract, this will be the last summer that Leao will remain as a Milan player and his cost could even be halved.

Gianluigi Donnarumma left Milan to join PSG, and Leao could be the next top player to leave

At the moment it seems appropriate that in the event of an extension of the agreement with Milan, Leao could obtain a significant lowering of his release clause, making it possible to transfer to a top foreign club in the future.

After Gianluigi Donnarumma, Hakan Çalhanoglu, Franck Kessie and Alessio Romagnoli, Milan risk losing another top player and this situation would be very negative next summer: all players close to contract expiry can voluntarily choose the path of the free list to get more money at a new club.

Maldini admits: ‘No one is irreplaceable in modern football’

Milan CEO Maldini spoke to Gazzetta dello Sport about the future of the club’s top players and in particular about Leao recently.

‘He is a player of the highest level. But not only for him, also for others, has received offers. If they show up anyway we have to see how to do it even if we don’t need to sell, our financial accounts are ok. But the players that cannot be sold now no longer exist.’

Leao also received compliments from Ruud Gullit. The former star of the Italian club praised the Portuguese talent during the celebration of Festival dello Sport : ‘Leao is a football phenomenon. 

‘The Milan boy is so strong that he does not understand himself, he has too much imagination and when he does something he does not understand what he will do immediately after.’

Paolo Maldini wants to keep Leao, but has admitted that no player is irreplaceable

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