Chelsea have joined the growing list of admirers for AC Milan attacker Rafael Leao, a report has revealed.
Leao was named the best player in Serie A after helping Milan to the Scudetto in the season just gone. Along the way, he scored 14 goals and added 12 assists from 42 appearances in all competitions.
In the process, the Portugal international has emerged onto the radar of several clubs. A recent report linked him with Manchester City and Real Madrid, the champions of England and Spain respectively.
Subsequent claims have denied Madrid’s interest. However, another contender for Leao’s signature could be Chelsea.
A new report from 90min has revealed that Chelsea are now monitoring the forward’s situation. He could be part of their plans to evolve their attack in the summer.
Leao largely features as a left winger, but can also play centrally. Therefore, he could replace any of Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic or Hakim Ziyech if they leave.
All four are facing uncertain futures going into the transfer window. Lukaku wants to return to Inter Milan, Werner has struggled to live up to expectations up front, and Pulisic and Ziyech have both been in and out of the team under Thomas Tuchel.
Indeed, neither of the two attacking midfielders featured in even half of Chelsea’s Premier League games in the 2021-22 season.
Now, if Chelsea – in their new era under Todd Boehly’s ownership – want to keep making strides towards a title challenge, they will need to find players in those roles that Tuchel can rely on more.
At the age of 22, Leao has a high ceiling. He already has more than 100 appearances for Milan and is a full Portugal international.
Therefore, he will want to be playing for a club that matches his ambition. After their Scudetto win, Milan fit the bill for now.
However, his contract at San Siro only lasts until 2024. Therefore, the Serie A winners will soon get to work on retaining the services of the former Lille star. They also want to raise his €150m (£127.5m) release clause.
Hence, he may not be the most attainable target for Chelsea. They may have to break their transfer record to sign him if Milan are unwilling to negotiate. But much would depend on their progress with his potential renewal.
Rafael Leao not only option for Chelsea, who must weigh up strategy
The report from 90min makes clear that he is not their only target for the final third. Ousmane Dembele is mentioned as an option again.
The Frenchman is about to become a free agent, unless Barcelona can renew his contract before the end of the month. Leaving the La Liga giants seems likely for Dembele, who previously played for Tuchel at Borussia Dortmund.
Chelsea have been named in increasing frequency as the most likely takers for the 2018 World Cup winner. Hence, he may be the most realistic attacking target they can go for.
Yet if there is a chance for Chelsea to add Rafael Leao into the mix too – be that this year or in the future – their attack should in theory become more exciting than it currently is. Tuchel supposedly wants an additional signing on top of Dembele.
They cannot neglect their need for reinforcements at the opposite end of the pitch, though. Finding new defenders will be even more important, so they should not blow the budget elsewhere.
Hence, Chelsea’s ideal strategy should be to bolster their backline, see if they can get Dembele and then see if there is still a chance for someone like Leao to join as the icing on the cake. But transfer markets are never that simple.