After initially forming an explosive partnership with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rafael Leao has once again drifted into the background of Stefano Pioli’s plans it seems.
As Calciomercato.com note, the Portuguese starlet is finding less and less game time as Ante Rebic continues his rise into Rossoneri stardom.
Since Round 22 of the season Leao has played only 12 minutes overall (10′ against Inter, 2′ against Torino). He remained on the bench against Juventus in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final and also in the last round against Fiorentina.
Ibrahimovic immediately took the 20-year-old under his wing which seemed to have marked the turning point for Leao, but in reality both the levels of both performance and production have dropped off with only one goal this calendar year.
For now his performances have not changed the future plans of Milan and Elliott on Leao, but it means there may now be reflections in view of the summer as he appears less of a certainty under Pioli.
Leao’s relaunch, however, is obligatory and just around the corner. Because to the disqualifications of Ibrahimovic and Castillejo, his presence in the semi-final of the return of the Italian Cup against Juventus (March 4) is pretty much guaranteed.
At the Allianz Stadium he will have to lead the Rossoneri attack in the complicated task of either winning or achieving a draw of 1-1 or greater (2-2, 3-3, etc. due to away goals) to seal a place in the final – and he will have to do it with a small amount of time in his legs.
In this sense it is a double-edged sword, as Pioli will be able to count on the freshness of Leao, but he also might not be as sharp as needed for such a big task.
Sunday’s game against Genoa offers the possibility to test Leao both physically and mentally as Milan try to recover their rough gem.