AC Milan technical director Paolo Maldini says Rafael Leao intends to stay with the Rossoneri, but admitted the Chelsea target is “not unsellable”.
Chelsea have been heavily linked with the in-form forward, who has followed up his good form from last season. Leao emerged as one of the top players in Serie A after helping the Rossoneri to Scudetto glory.
Leao hit 14 goals and 12 assists last season and this time around he has three goals from eight games.
The Blues, according to Maldini, made a concrete offer for the 23-year-old winger. The bid was not in written form, but the Italian official still confirmed that Milan had rejected the proposal.
They are eager to keep hold of the developing player, but his situation at the San Siro remains complex.
The Portugal international is out of contract in 2024 and Milan have his renewal at the top of their agenda. Talks between the club and Leao’s agent Jorge Mendes have taken place, but there is no hint of a new deal.
Leao is reportedly seeking a salary of around £6m per year, which equates to around £115,000 a week. Milan though are unwilling to go that high especially when Mendes also wants Milan to help with the player’s recent fine.
That is the bigger problem. The player was fined £13.9m plus interest by The Court of Arbitration for Sport after he terminated his contract illegally at Sporting before joining Lille in 2018.
That debt now stands at around £16m, according to The Times. Currently 25 per cent of Leao’s salary is held by the court each month. But Mendes wants Milan to clear Leao’s debt as part of a new contractual agreement.
“Leao has a different situation which comes from his transfer to Lille,” Maldini told La Gazzetta Dello Sport, via Football Italia.
£130m release clause for Rafael Leao
“This is having an impact, interlocutors have often changed. But Rafa is grateful to us and I take into account what he says.
“Rafa understands that the path for the next few years must be at Milan. He understands it and he says it. There will be a negotiation, and we know that strong players must be paid for their value. If the team improves further, he will have everything to do even more. Then, of course, nobody is unsellable, in any team in the world.”
When asked if he is optimistic about reaching an agreement with Leao, Maldini replied: “Yes, with him, but we have nothing to do with Sporting CP.”
It’s that uncertainty that Blues chief Todd Boehly tried to capitalise on last month. No doubt Chelsea will try again for Leao, who has a £130m release clause in his contract. it’s certainly not a dead end for the American, who will be keen to back new boss Graham Potter in the transfer market.