The issue of Rafael Leao’s renewal continues to dominate the media headlines, but one journalist thinks that the passage of time will actually favour AC Milan rather than attract pressure.
There is no doubting that Leao is one of the star men at Milan currently if not the biggest star and he often made the difference during last season’s Scudetto win, which made it no surprise that he was given the Serie A MVP award.
Alberto Cerruti has written a piece for Calciomercato.com which provides an update on the Leao situation, writing how time ‘plays in his favour’ because Pioli has always repeated that Leao has ‘ample room for improvement’.
Milan paid €23m to sign Leao from Lille in 2019, guaranteeing him a salary of €1.4m net per season until 30 June 2024, the journalist writes, and he also adds that time could play in the favour of the Rossoneri as well as the player.
“Despite the many talks about the possible renewal of the contract with Milan, who offered him 6 million per season willing to go up to 7, so far no agreement has been reached. Maldini had declared that he hoped to close the negotiation before the World Cup, but this was not the case,” he states.
“And now, even if Leao is not a regular in the national team, it is legitimate to ask what his value will be at the end of the event, given that so far he has already scored two goals coming off the bench and in the event that Portugal enter the semi-finals, or even win his first World Cup, the Rossoneri striker would cost much more.
“It’s easy to imagine that Chelsea are increasingly interested in him, even more so if they lose Ziyech, and consequently the requests from his agent increase. It is less easy to imagine that upon returning to Milanello, Leao would immediately renew his contract with Milan.
“It is true that up to now he has launched reassuring messages, making it clear that he intends to stay at Milan, but after Kessie ‘s sensational precedent, who declared to La Gazzetta a year ago at the Olympics that he would sign a contract renewal upon returning to Italy, it is legitimate to have some doubts.
“Regardless of how Portugal’s World Cup ends, Milan will therefore have to give the player a sort of ultimatum to whoever represents him, because they cannot run the risk of losing him on a free transfer in a year, as has already happened with the various Donnarumma, Calhanoglu, Kessie and Romagnoli.
“The winter market closes at the end of January and that must be the deadline. Either in or out, then. Either Leao signs the renewal, or Milan have the right and the duty to sell him to the highest bidder.
“Because no one is indispensable, as Maignan indirectly demonstrated, and neither is Leao who too many times has had an indolent attitude, stopping after scoring a goal, and above all without making a difference in the most important matches of the Champions League, such as the double meeting with Chelsea.
“In fact, a true champion always is, both in his own club and in the national team. And his partner Giroud – who could teach everyone about the importance of continuity and mentality – is demonstrating it at the World Cup.
“That’s why time plays in AC Milan’s favour, who at this point have more to gain than to lose. Because either Leao stays, or he greets him in exchange for a nice package of millions of euros, or pounds. Dreaming of the arrival of Ziyech who will challenge him on Saturday in Qatar.”