AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli has urged Rafael Leao to sign a new contract and snub growing interest from Manchester United and Chelsea.
The Portugal international failed to start a game at the World Cup, but put in several excellent cameo performances, adding to his already esteemed reputation.
Leao’s future has been the subject of speculation for a while, but Pioli is keen to put an end to the rumours by tying the 23-year-old down to a new deal.
It’s unsurprising to see Man United and Chelsea vying for Leao’s signature given how impressive he has been in Italy.
Since joining Milan on a £30m deal from Lille in 2019, the Portuguese attacker’s form has been electric and improving each season.
Overall, in 135 appearances across all competitions, Leao has scored 34 goals and made 30 assists for the Rossoneri, boasting a fantastic goal contribution per game average of 0.47.
Last season, Milan’s number 17 was also one of Pioli’s key players as they won their first Serie A title since 2011.
In 34 league appearances, Leao scored 11 goals and contributed 10 assists. Without him, it’s likely Milan wouldn’t have gotten close to winning the scudetto.
This season, the winger has continued his prolific form, scoring six goals and assisting five times in 14 outings already.
If Leao can keep up this kind of form, he has the potential to become one of the best attacking players in Europe.
Pioli advises Leao to continue progression at San Siro
The Milan forward’s current deal is set to expire in 18 months, and the Italian manager can’t afford to lose a player who has been so vital to their success.
Speaking to Sky Sport via Fabrizio Romano, Pioli said: “I advise him to sign a new deal and stay at Milan. I see Rafa very happy here.
“Leao here will have the chance to improve again, he feels good at Milan with this group.”
However, that does not make a big-money move to the Premier League any less tempting for the forward.
As mentioned, Man United and Chelsea seem the most likely to table an offer for Leao at the end of the season, with both Erik ten Hag and Graham Potter keen on the youngster.
In fact, the Blues boss has made no secret of his interest in the versatile forward, who impressed against Chelsea in the Champions League earlier this season.
‘You can see his quality and what he brings,’ Potter said last month. ‘He’s part of a strong team, a strong club and a strong set-up, and we respect that.’
However, TEAMtalk recently reported that Chelsea’s signing of Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig means Chelsea will likely stop pursuing a big-money move for the Milan winger.
As for the Red Devils, Leao would be a real statement addition as Ten Hag aims to bring trophies back to Old Trafford.
The Portugal international could add an exciting new dimension to United’s front three.
So far, Antony has struggled to find the net on a regular basis this season, while Anthony Elanga and Jadon Sancho are also in a generally poor run of form.
Marcus Rashford has been United’s most efficient attacker, but with only four goals in 14 league appearances this season has not exactly been prolific.
Leao has the x-factor Ten Hag is looking for as he aims for future success at Old Trafford, so a new long-term contract would be bad news for the Dutch coach.