Rafael Leao heads to Qatar with the world at his toes and a World Cup in his sights, one among Europe’s rising stars able to take up the mantle of fading Portuguese legend Cristiano Ronaldo. The undoubted star at AC Milan, the place his flamboyant wing play introduced final season’s Serie A title, the 23-year-old Portugal attacker has developed from a gifted however inconsistent teenager to a confirmed match-winner. His six objectives and 9 assists in all membership competitions this season have helped put Milan again within the combine for the Scudetto in Italy and within the final 16 of the Champions League for the primary time in 9 years.
Fleet of foot and blessed with excellent steadiness, Leao additionally has correct distribution and a mind for objective, and below coach Stefano Pioli he has develop into the one to observe each time he seems for Milan.
In some methods his profession has mirrored the early years of veteran Ronaldo, who has been out of favour at Manchester United and going via a speedy decline in each performances and standing within the twilight of his profession.
Ronaldo was additionally thought-about a present pony when he got here via at United almost 20 years in the past, a uncooked teenager who was but to show into the objective machine who got here up with the products when it mattered.
“I made the leap because of the arrival of Pioli (in 2019)… He gave me the proper mentality and all the time inspired me to consider in myself,” Leao stated to DAZN in March, earlier than claiming the Italian title.
“He all the time informed me that I used to be gifted however that I did not have the profitable mentality, that if I wished to get to the identical degree as (Kylian) Mbappe or Ronaldo I wanted to make an impression in each single match.”
Like Ronaldo, Leao got here via at Sporting Lisbon and he has been in comparison with Mbappe — and people two are the gamers he aspires to be like.
Former Sporting youth coach Tiago Fernandes stated in 2019 that he believed Leao was the most effective participant within the historical past of the membership’s academy — even higher than Ronaldo as a youth participant.
“I wished to indicate everybody who I actually was, even when I am not but a real goalscorer like Mbappe or Ronaldo,” Leao stated earlier this 12 months.
“These two are the 2 attackers I research on YouTube and who encourage me. I wish to get to their degree.”
Leao’s profession exploded into life in France at Lille after he unilaterally ended his contract with Sporting in 2018 when followers invaded the membership’s coaching floor.
The authorized wrangles which resulted from that transfer — Leao has to pay Sporting 20 million euros ($20.2m) — have bubbled within the background as he approaches a event which might see him take the step as much as the subsequent degree.
Milan try to get Leao to increase his present deal which runs to 2024, and Italian media report that they’re providing 6-7 million euros a 12 months in an try and stave off curiosity from the Premier League.
Chelsea made an off-the-cuff bid for Leao within the final shut season, and Milan director Paolo Maldini stated in September that “nobody is unsellable” for a membership which might now not wave round a bulging pockets as in the course of the salad days of Silvio Berlusconi.
Portuguese sports activities day by day Report additionally claimed that Maldini met with Sporting director Frederico Varandas twice as a part of discussions over Leao’s debt, with at present round a fifth of his annual wage being taken to pay again his former membership.
Milan are reportedly attempting to chop a take care of the Portuguese facet within the hope it can persuade Leao to remain long-term on the San Siro — which followers are packing out thanks partially to Leao’s improvement into one of many world’s most fun skills.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV employees and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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