Chelsea hopes increase for standout winger signing after club chief confesses missed contract deadline

Mike Maignan, Rafael Leao, AC Milan, May 2022

Rafael Leao has not signed a contract extension by the time AC Milan would have wanted, it has been confirmed, which may give Chelsea more hope of signing him in 2023.

Chelsea have been keeping a close eye on Milan winger Leao, who won the award for Serie A’s best player in the 2021-22 season. The Portugal international was a key performer in helping the Rossoneri win the Italian title.

However, his long-term future remains unclear. His current contract is due to expire in 2024, so Milan have been under some pressure to renew it.

If they cannot tie him down for longer, they risk losing him for free in 2024 – or at a discounted rate one year earlier.

Chelsea would like to take advantage, and will have received encouragement after Milan director Paolo Maldini confirmed the state of play with Leao.

According to Maldini, Milan wanted to secure some important deals before their players headed off for the World Cup. Leao was one of those they were hoping to reach a conclusion with, but it has not happened.

“We’ve been talking about this [contract extension] for months, if not years,” Maldini told Sky Sport Italia.

“We’ll meet at the right moment and make a decision. The idea was to close [the deal] before the World Cup, especially with players involved in the competition, Leao in this case. It was not possible.”

Milan made to wait for Rafael Leao decision

Leao will be representing Portugal in Qatar, so his mind will not be on his Milan situation for the next few weeks.

There is little doubt that both Milan and Chelsea will be keeping an eye on him throughout, though. As soon as his involvement in the competition is over, his current employers will surely be trying to get back on track with their talks.

Leao has scored seven goals from 20 appearances in all competitions this season, also providing nine assists. Hence, Milan would suffer by selling him, whereas Chelsea would be hoping he could replicate his talents in the Premier League.

Milan may have missed their first deadline, but won’t have given up hope of keeping the 23-year-old entirely. Chelsea can only watch on for now, but it would be interesting to see Milan’s response if they tested the water with a bid in 2023.

The Blues might have to break their transfer record to bring Leao to the club, but TEAMtalk has been reminded he is a player to keep an eye on when it comes to Chelsea.

Our transfer expert Graeme Bailey recently told us that Chelsea are “pushing hard” for the former Sporting CP and Lille man.

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