GdS: From Sparta to Slavia – Leao’s four-year evolution passes through Prague

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan will take on Slavia Praha at San Siro tomorrow night, and Rafael Leao is expected to get the nod on the left side of the attack once again, with a chance to show his evolution.

La Gazzetta dello Sport look back to a European night in 2020 where Leao had blond, curly hair, no braids, no headband to keep them tied, a lot of dye and the number 17 on his back, with a slimmer physique than today.

Four years have passed since the night in question, and the Portuguese has changed for the better. Now he wears the No.10, he won a Scudetto, he played in a World Cup alongside Ronaldo and he is the leader of Milan’s attack.

On 29 October 2020 Leao scored his first goal in Europe with the Milan shirt against Sparta Prague, in a deserted stadium due to the pandemic. The opponent was the main team from the city where the Rossoneri will play in this year’s round of 16: Prague. But in place of Sparta, this time, there is Slavia.

Stefano Pioli’s side reached the group stages in 2020-21 after eliminating Shamrock Rovers and Rio Ave in the preliminaries, scoring three goals against Celtic in the first game of the groups. Leao was 22 years old, and it was still being debated if he was better as a winger or a striker.

That spring day Leao entered the second half in place of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and positioned himself in front of Brahim Diaz. On the wings were Samu Castillejo and Rade Krunic, while Ciprian Tatarusanu was in goal.

Milan scored three goals, with Leao netting as well as his compatriot Diogo Dalot and his close friend Brahim Diaz in a 3-0 win. The Rossoneri went on to see their European adventure ended in the round of 16 against Manchester United.

This time Rafa faces Slavia, a tough and cynical team capable of putting even Roma, Inter and Sevilla in difficulty, just three of the teams they have shocked in recent years.

In 2020 Leao was still a talented boy, now he is Milan’s golden boy. He won the league title as the MVP and is hoping to drag the Rossoneri to the quarter-finals.


Tags AC Milan Rafael Leao
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