Capello believes style of Serie A is hampering Leao’s Euro 2024 campaign

By Oliver Fisher -

Fabio Capello believes that the pace of Serie A is what is contributing to the fact Rafael Leao is struggling to make a mark at the European Championship so far.

There were doubts about whether Leao would start Portugal’s second group game last night and even though he did he lasted just 45 minutes and did not take to the field for the second half. He was criticised by the media for failing to make much impact.

Having been booked in the first game against the Czech Republic for what was adjudged to be a dive, received yet another yellow for simulation which means he will be suspended for the final group game next week.

Capello spoke to Sky and he was asked why Leao is decisive for Milan but struggles to hit those same heights on a regular basis for his country. His response was relayed by MilanNews, and he put some blame on the league.

“Why is Leao decisive in Serie A and is he struggling at the European Championship? In Italy we play at a slow pace and with his speed he creates problems for everyone.” he said.

“We saw Spain against Italy who played at a high pace and had fast players who were good at dribbling. In Italy there are few players who dribble besides Leao. So it becomes uncontainable even for defenders who are used to defending.”

Tags AC Milan Rafael Leao

21 Comments

  1. He doesn’t have an excuse for the diving IMO, in both cases he could have beaten his man but choses to dive. And it’s a bit strange because he is rarely sanctionned for diving, let alone 2 games in a row.

  2. It can go both ways.
    Serie A slow pace is hampering Leao or the slow pace makes a great athlete like Leao look like a better footballer than he actually is?
    Many times I have said that Leao is lucky that he has to play vs smaller, slower weaker full backs in serie A. If you put him in a more athletic league like the EPL, he is just another guy.
    Same goes for Theo btw.
    Another player whose game is based solely on his speed and athleticism.
    Both of them only excel on the counter attack when there are acres of free space to run and take advantage of their athleticism.
    There is a reason no big team is trying to knock Milan door down and buy one of them with a big offer.
    Leao rumors are about Saudi Arabia while Theo is plan B or C in case Bayern, Real M or whoever doesn’t get their first target.

    1. “Serie A slow pace is hampering Leao or the slow pace makes a great athlete like Leao look like a better footballer than he actually is”
      Fully agree. I have noticed that against fast teams or well-defending ones Leao rarely shows up. In the three matches I have recently seen him with Portugal (vs Croatia, Slovakia and Turkey) his performance was crap.

    2. Strange opinion. Théo is a key player for one of the best national teams in the world. Leao is our most decisive player in top games and one of the most talented wingers in Europe. If Théo and Leao wouldn’t play on the left and attract defense, Pulisic would not thrive like he did, and he scored mostly against average teams. Neither Pulisic nor Reijnders received big offers for that matter so it probably means that Tonali was our best player since he was sold for 70M€.

      1. 🤦‍♂️
        Like is told you last time, your comments are getting worse and worse by the day.
        What does what I said had anything to do with what you said?
        Who is questioning their importance to Milan?
        The article is why Leao is poor when he plays outside of serie A.
        Try for once to stay on point.

        1. You’re definitely an imbecile that can’t bear any opposing view. I disagree with your opinion of Théo as a player that can only thrive in Serie A when he’s a starter for France over Real Madrid starter Ferland Mendy, he was a big contributor during the last World Cup and he is now entrenched as a key player and played well for the first two games of the Euro. Not saying about your fallacious parallel with potential “big offers”, I agree with what Giga94 said.

          Not all of what you say is gospel and you’re not a football scientist, just a random dude commenting on a random website so chill please.

          1. Try reading what is written, follow the train of thought and context, maybe you will understand what is written, If you have the capacity for it, if you don’t, I’m sorry, I guess.

    3. “There is a reason no big team is trying to knock Milan door down and buy one of them with a big offer.
      Leao rumors are about Saudi Arabia while Theo is plan B or C in case Bayern, Real M or whoever doesn’t get their first target.”
      I don’t think that what you’ve said is the only reason (or even the main reason).
      The truth is, the market is not like back in the days. You’d think that if X player is considered among the best in the world right now (not that I think Leao is, he is far, far from that), you’d many many teams lining up for him, but the truth is, with the current financial climate, the teams composition, the price,…. the players who are actually the best don’t have much of a choice of where to go.
      Take Harry Kane for example, only Bayern had a serious offer for him. Mbappe also didn’t have a true candidate for his next destination outside of Madrid. Same goes for Haaland,… and the reason is, these players are expensive, they have big wages and most teams who can afford them don’t necessarly need them at the moment.
      With the price tag we put on Leao (a release clause of 175M€ and probably won’t go for less than 80M€) and Theo (north of 80M€) not many teams can afford either of them aside from Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG and the Saudis. Some EPL teams could probably afford them but the financial fair play seemingly more focused on them this summer, I don’t think that many teams are willing to spend that much.
      For Theo if Bayern manages to keep Davies, they don’t have a good reason to go for a similar left back who isn’t yet used to them (although I see Theo doing well with Bayern) and Real seems quite satisfied with the performances of Mendy. Manchester City has a fine tuned machine and I don’t think Theo will suit them which pretty much just leaves PSG.
      For Leao the story is a bit different IMO (and more critical). I’ve said before that since he’s shown to play anywhere BUT the left wing (as opposed to players like Foden, Mbappe, Rashford and our Pulisic) and actually needs a convential fullback with him, not many teams will go for such a “limited” player tactically and again, the teams who can pay 100M€ or more already have better left wingers, so why would they go for Leao ?
      Now overall, I think that what Capello is trying to say, is that Leao “grew” in a slow serie A and didn’t develop to adapt to faster leagues and faster fullbacks. He didn’t work on his skillset to adapt to higher pace and now that he essentially stopped trying to improve, he’s been found out against different teams. That and his sometimes abysmall decision making and overall mentality.

      1. ManCity 10 months ago spent 90 mil on a left back Josko Gvardiol. I didn’t read about them trying to sign Theo.
        Fact is that Theo is a plan B for both Bayern and Real. If Theo is so good as we Milan fans think, some say he is the best in the world, don’t you think that some EPL club, PSG or other rich clubs would have offered 70, 80, 90 mil for him. Because as I said man city signed a LB for 90 mil.
        Haaland transfer fee was only 60 mil and a lot of teams were ready to sign him but he wanted City because his father played for them.
        Mbappe had all the options in the world but he only wanted Real Madrid.
        I know Man Utd wanted Kane last summer. Don’t know why he chose Bayern over them.
        Most of us read Milan news on sempre milan daily and at no point any club tried hard to sign either one of Theo or Leao in the last few years, outside of Chelsea cheeky attempt to offer 70 mil for Leao coming out of 21/22 season.
        Same Chelsea club that in the last 3 years have spent billions. 115 m on Lukaku, 120 mil on Enzo, 130 mil on Caicedo.
        Kane went for 100 mil, Rice for a 100 mil, Bellingham for a 100 mil. Teams are still spending a lot of money, they just don’t think that those 2 Milan players are worth a lot of money.

        1. Some of the players I named were indeed wanted by some teams, but only few made serious offers. Real Madrid was the only vocal team about Mbappé since 2021, the others were just rumors (also if another team was really serious about him they could have tried to hijack him). For Kane, I think he wanted to go to a team who is likely to win something, so Man U was already out.
          Manchester City choices are dicated by Guardiola’s needs. They just don’t pick players because they’re highly rated. It’s not reasonable to replace let’s say the “fifth” best LB in the world who is already doing well for the hopes that the “third” best LB in the world would do better. I said that Theo isn’t very well suited for their system and I think we saw it clearly this season: Theo can’t play as an inverted fullback. Guardiola wants inverted fullbacks (heck he pretty much invented that stuff).
          Also bear in mind that Theo and Leao only started to be called un in NT in 2021 and became well known after the 2022 scudetto. Prior to that they were just prospects and “rejects”. My remark concerning who would’ want Theo and Leao only concerns this season, not overall. It’s this summer that might be difficult for EPL teams because of financial issues, prior to that they were ok.
          But I’ll ask this way: how many teams this summer can spend north of 80M€ for Theo (or even Leao for this matter) and who actually need an improvment in the left flank ?

          1. No one tried to hijack Mbappe deal because he made it clear he only wants Real Madrid.
            ManCity doesn’t play with inverted fullbacks anymore and Gvardiol certainly isn’t one that can play that.
            On your question about who needs an improvement on the left flank, apparently, Real Madrid does, since they are trying to sign Alphonso Davies, you remember?
            And Real can definitely spend around 80 mil this summer. Plus his price is negotiable if Real pushes and Theo asks to leave. Milan will lose a lot of leverage.
            The point is that we have hyped up Theo and some Leao, but the rest of Europe is not so high on those 2.
            Theo had to beg to be called up for France and he wasn’t even a starter until his brother tore his ACL at the world cup.
            The fact is that most of Europe wary of players that have made their name in Italy because of the quality of the league and because very few players have actually replicated their performances in other leagues. Outside of Zidane I can’t think of another player that look great in serie A and then in Spain or England.

          2. “Outside of Zidane I can’t think of another player that look great in serie A and then in Spain or England.”
            What about Mohamed Salah ? He was even greater in EPL than in Serie A.
            I agree that Serie A tend to not do so well in Spain in England (with notable exceptions like Zidane, Laudrup, Salah, Henry,…) but the same can be said in the other way around. We have a bad experience with players coming for Spain. Players tend to not always succeed in other leagues (different pace, formations, mentality, mood,…). The exception strangely enough are players from Bundesliga and from Ligue 1 which are generally considered to be inferior leagues (although I don’t think we can say that the current Bundesliga is inferior to current serie A).
            But for Theo, it seems that the only teams that can afford him and might need him are Real and Bayern who they won’t necessarly go for him. I’d say good for us because I’d like us to keep Theo instead of letting him go.

          3. Henry spent 3 months in serie A playing as a wingback. I don’t think he or Viera qualify here because they didn’t make their name in serie A.
            Salah was on loan at Fiorentina and Roma from Chelsea before Roma bought him out and resold back to EPL.
            Michael Laudrup and Zidane. Now think how many serie A top players were sold out for big money to EPL or Primera and succeeded.
            There are not that many top EPL or Primera players that came to serie A to even have a chance to flop. Those that did balled out. Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lukaku, Tevez, just of the top of my head.

      2. I think you’re mostly spot on on most points. Osimhen is another example. Napoli set a 130M price on him, but despite being an extremely dangerous striker, nobody has come forward at that price. Aside from the Saudi Pro League (Super League Wannabe), we might actually be seeing something of a peak in transfer prices. Even City and PSG have calmed down a bit in recent seasons.

        As to what Capello said, it is problematic in the sense that Leao, when he wants to, has no trouble against teams in the CL. PSG, Newcastle and Dortmund don’t play on Serie A, so this undermines Capello’s point. I just think that Leao is fundamentally lazy. He’s doing just enough to get the contract and get paid, but no more. He’s one of these players that could be world class, but they have no interest. Instead relying on their sheer talent to make minimum effort and still be better than many to collect a paycheck until they can move on to whatever they would prefer to be doing, like fashion or rapping. It has nothing to do with Serie A, and everything to do with the individual.

    4. So many wrong things with this comment:
      – the premier league is better than serie a, but it’s not like the defenders here are significantly slower than there. That’s not what capello is saying, he’s saying the game is typically slower.
      – leao will probably do better in a more fast pace less tactical match
      – leao has been inconsistent in serie a as well, against the supposedly slower defenders
      – Mbappe and bellingham also had lukewarm games. Maybe it’s because they are slow in france and spain as well.

      And Theo, I really don’t know what you want from the guy

  3. I said it all along against weak teams he runs all over them u notice when we play juve or inter he can’t do much,
    Even in the Champions league he suffers alot huge difference like most of you said Italian full backs are so slow, that’s why if he moved to Premier league or Spanish league he will suffer for while he needs to use his ball skills mix his runs and dribbling skills to be top class player

  4. What is Capello talking about? Why is he mentioning Spain? La Liga is played at a much slower pace than Serie A and there is less contact and more diving. Leao isn’t struggling anymore than Ronaldo is. They’ve had their moments. They could have done better. This isn’t a story.

  5. Capello the manager – one of the best ever, a true legend

    Capello the pundit – about as relevant as a bloke in the corner of a pub

  6. what capello is saying is rubbish because i don’t see any reason over is perfomance sometime when player are in good condition they we play to their full potential not everytime player are in top form

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