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Transfer Talk: All eyes on Milan as Europe's elite look to land Leao
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Mitchell Fretton
Rafael Leao is a high priority for many clubs this summer
Rafael Leao is a high priority for many clubs this summer

Rafael Leao will be the one to watch as Tottenham travel to AC Milan in the Champions League tonight.

The talented forward has been subject to transfer speculation for many months and will have the opportunity to showcase his talents against one of the Premier League's top clubs at the San Siro.

Ahead of the match in Italy, we turn the spotlight on the 23-year-old.

Diamond in the rough

Milan have struggled to keep pace in Serie A this season and sit 18 points off runaway leaders Napoli.

The Rosseneri have been unable to replicate the form that saw them lift the Scudetto in 2021-22 but Leao has still been a major influence in Italy.

With eight goals and five assists, the speedster sits at the top of the goalscoring charts for his club and lies in a respectable sixth when compared to other forwards in the league.

His impact in the Champions League has not been as impressive but he has helped Milan progress further than they did in the last campaign where they crashed out at the bottom of their group.

With Pedro Porro still settling in at the Spurs and Emerson Royal a liability in defence, Leao will be excited at the prospect of facing an English side who are shipping a lot of goals this season.

His flair, speed and delivery are three traits that will have Antonio Conte scratching his head as he looks to shut up shop at his old stomping ground.

Rafael Leao has done his part in helping AC Milan climb up the table this season
Rafael Leao has done his part in helping AC Milan climb up the table this season

Top of the rocks

Leao may thrive in front of goal, but he is also gifted when it comes to decision making. In Serie A this season, he ranks in the top five for big chances scored (six) and created (eight).

The Portuguese international has also recorded 60 shots on goal, with only Victor Osimhen and Lautaro Martinez registering more.

However, only 16 of his efforts have found the target, suggesting that he does have an area to work on as he becomes a more established figure in European football.

To further showcase his ability we can look at Leao's success in one-on-one situations.

Only Khvicha Kvaratskhelia of Napoli has attempted more than his 75 take-ons in 2022-23 but Leao has completed the most with 35.

His numbers leave no question as to why so many clubs are tracking the 16-cap international and he will have to provide that same output tonight if Milan are to progress deeper into the Champions League.

The world at his feet

Rafael Leao operates on the left for AC Milan
Rafael Leao operates on the left for AC Milan

Leao is in a position of power at Milan and although Stefano Pioli will want to keep his talisman, the club may have to cash in on him this summer.

The former Lille playmaker has a contract that runs until 2024, meaning he is closing in on the final 12 months of his five-year deal.

Premier League giants Chelsea have been most frequently linked with Leao but the arrival of Mykhailo Mudryk may prevent the Blues from moving for the marksman while the likes of Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic remain at the club.

Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are also reported to be keen on the winger if they can secure him for a cut price in the summer or on a free in 2024.

Leao is a player who appears ambitious and although he is comfortable in Milan, his talents suggest that he should be front and centre on the world stage and a move abroad may be the best way to achieve that.

The defending Serie A champions are desperate to tie the trickster down to a new deal but contract talks have been stalling for months and it seems increasingly unlikely that an extension will be agreed in the near future.

Money talks

Rafael Leao will have a big role to play when AC Milan meet Tottenham tonight
Rafael Leao will have a big role to play when AC Milan meet Tottenham tonight

Milan are reportedly demanding around £90million for Leao and there have been suggestions his head has been turned by the speculation.

Former boss Fabio Capello believes that his mind is elsewhere and suggests that the circumstances mean that Leao is not performing at his top level.

He said: "Even if he’s not the version from last year, Leao is always a phenomenon. You can’t leave him out, he’s essential for Milan.

"At the moment, perhaps like Zaniolo, Leao is ill-advised. His mind is elsewhere, on contracts.

"We should talk to him, but leaving him out is useless and doesn’t help him. On the contrary, it makes him sadder: he must feel important and be helped by his team-mates as well."

Portugal's 6ft 1in maestro will be keen to make his mark against English opposition tonight and truly announce his arrival on Europe's biggest stage.


Champions LeagueAC MilanRafael Leao
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