Chelsea dealt blow in Leao pursuit


AC Milan director Paolo Maldini has revealed that Rafael Leao wants to stay at San Siro amid interest from Chelsea.
The Portugal international was rumoured to have been on the Blues’ radar during the summer transfer window after playing a key role in the Rossoneri’s Serie A title triumph last term.
Leao came up with 11 goals and 10 assists in 34 league matches during the 2021-22 season and has already registered three goals and six assists from eight games in all tournaments in 2022-23.
Chelsea supposedly failed with a £69m offer for the 23-year-old on deadline day, but they have been expected to reignite their interest when future windows roll around, and Manchester City have also been credited with an interest.
Milan are not in a strong negotiating position either, with Leao’s contract up in the summer of 2024, and Maldini recently addressed the issues surrounding the attacker’s deal.
Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, via CalcioMercato, Maldini revealed that a problem with Leao’s former club Sporting Lisbon is to blame for his lack of contract extension.
The Portuguese giants are said to be owed as much as £13.8m by Leao after he terminated his contract to sign for Lille on a free transfer in 2018, but Maldini is hopeful that the matter will be resolved quickly, and Leao has told him that he wants to remain at San Siro for “years”.
“Leao has a difficult situation that comes from his move to Lille, which is affecting him a lot and has meant that our interlocutors have often changed,” Maldini explained.
“But Rafa is grateful to us and I’m interested in what he says to us. He understands that his path in the coming years must be at Milan, he understands that and tells us as much.
“There will be a negotiation but we know that good players must be paid their value. If the team grows further, Leao will have everything to compete to the fullest. Of course, there are no non-transferable players at any team around the world.”
Leao spent just one season at Lille before Milan forked out £26.5m to bring him to the club in 2019, and he has since amassed 30 goals and 27 assists in 123 outings for Stefano Pioli’s side.
The attacker was named Milan’s Player of the Year for the 2021-22 season and has also earned 10 caps for the Portuguese national team, registering three assists, but he is still waiting for his first senior international goal.