Tottenham are rivalling Chelsea for AC Milan star Rafael Leao, who has albeit been told two Manchester United stars are better than him.
The Portugal international has become one of the most-watched forwards in Europe following his recent rise. After settling in with six goals in his debut season, Leao’s contributions have increased thereafter.
And last term, he struck 14 times and assisted 12 other goals in all competitions.
Chelsea subsequently latched onto Leao this summer as an ideal transfer target. Despite failing to sign the 23-year-old, Blues part-owner Todd Boehly is reportedly trying to get a future deal sewn up.
Indeed, Boehly has all-but secured the summer 2023 arrival at Stamford Bridge of RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku.
Milan are trying to tie Leao down to a new contract, with his current terms running out in 2024. According to former Ivory Coast national team chief Fabio Cordella, though, the Serie A champions are struggling to find an agreement.
Speaking about Leao’s potential new contract, Cordella told Calciomercato: “Milan do not have the means and do not want to have the means to match the demands of the entourage.
“The boy did not grow up in Milan, he did not stick to the Rossoneri colours.
“When offers arrive with triple the salary from other parts of the world, it is difficult to keep him.
“Leao will only renew on his terms, not Milan’s. The Portuguese only look at the numbers. Such a young player, who knows he can take three to four times more, doesn’t want to stay in Milan. Are you asking for €7million [£6.1million] a year? No, more.”
Tottenham in Leao transfer race
And Cordella, who was also previously the sporting director at Belgian club Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, added that Tottenham fancy their chances of signing Leao.
“There are prestigious clubs where a young boy like Leao can marry a cause and make history like [Francesco] Totti at Roma while moving only for the money may not happen,” he said.
“There are clubs that have offered even 10 million a year to Leao. Saying Chelsea is not silly, but there are other English clubs on him, including Tottenham.
“But in my opinion Leao, far from the lights of San Siro, would not be the Leão of Milan, but just a phenomenon among many. It is not obvious that he will go to Manchester City and it is not obvious that then City will win the Champions League.”
Despite signing Richarlison this summer, Tottenham boss Antonio Conte has admitted that Spurs need “more transfer markets to reach a good level”.
Meanwhile, former Serie A star Antonio Cassano has claimed that Leao is not on the level of Manchester United duo Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.
AC Milan star in Premier League comparison
“He is not a player who makes a difference. Rashford and Sancho are stronger,” Cassano said via Gazzetta dello Sport.
“He may be the best in our league, but Serie A is the fifth league in Europe.
“He makes the difference with Empoli, Fiorentina and Bologna, but in the Champions League it’s a different matter. For me he can be on the bench for [Kingsley] Coman or Luis Diaz.”
Leao is already on his way to beating last season’s goal and assist tally, notching four and seven, respectively.
Chelsea or Spurs could sign star man
Despite Milan’s attempts to tie Leao to a new contract, there is the ever-increasing likelihood of him moving on.
He clearly knows his worth and at 23, he is approaching the best years of his career.
As such, his next contract – wherever that may be – needs to represent a player whose trajectory only points upwards.
His impact on the domestic stage and in Europe is clear to see.
However, Leao’s stock is also rising on the international stage. He has featured in all of Portugal’s last eight matches and will surely play a part at the World Cup if he stays fit.
Leao’s camp are most likely keeping in mind the prospect of their client’s stock rising even further with a good showing in front of a global audience.