GdS: ‘The Spring of Leao’ – numbers show how Rafa has blossomed in 2024

By Oliver Fisher -

Rafael Leao got his name on the scoresheet again last night to help AC Milan coast to victory over Slavia Praha, and he is having a resurgence as we head into the spring.

As La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) writes this morning, Leao is a rollercoaster of a player. Sometimes he makes you feel impatient when ​​he’s not clinical or decisive and he wanders around the field, but when he finds a solution he’s artistic.

In Prague he scored a YouTube compilation goal and commented on it as a creative would in his post-match interview. It was almost like he was more focused on the aesthetic than the end result.

“Yes, it was good, it’s a play I always try in training. When I talk about magic, about joy, it means this, taking risks. Everyone does simple things, I enjoy it that way,” he said.

The goal rightfully has a place among Leao’s finest at Milan, together with the left-footed strike against Napoli in 2023, that opener after a few seconds against Sassuolo, the missile at the top corner against Atalanta and the slalom in the derby in September 2022.

This right-footed shot is special because it ends up right in the top corner, the place of perfect goals which in France they even define with an architectural metaphor: ‘lucarne’, meaning skylight. The shot started from 29.5 metres out and Rafa has only scored once from that far, against Cagliari in 2021.

Milan hope it is the start of something; the beginning of a Leao who seeks new solutions and chooses the most effective. In recent months, not by chance, he has stopped taking so many useless shots from range.

One day maybe he will also be a presence in the area or score a header but now the important thing is to continue to grow, as Stefano Pioli stated after the game.

“This must be his standard. It depends on him, we did what we had to do. I hope that he will always be so mentally strong.”

Leao agrees: “Now I’m 24, I understand the game better. Everyone helps me and Pioli makes me feel calm by telling me ‘come in and have fun’. This moment is also thanks to him.”

The numbers confirm Leao is making a big leap in quality. In 2024 he has already scored six goals and provided five assists – only Kylian Mbappé, Cole Palmer (Chelsea) and Benjamin Bourigeaud (Rennes) have reached 5+5.

Milan smiles, also because Rafa speaks like a happy man: “How much of a Milanista do I feel? 100%, of course. I was lucky enough to have Ibra, he and Maldini helped me understand how great Milan is. It’s a pride to play for this shirt and I’m happy to be here.”

From the evening in Prague – more than anything – it is worth mentioning the moment where Leao interrupted the game to protest against the Slavia fans, who threw beer and bottles at Yacine Adli.

“He defended his teammate,” said Pioli. It is not difficult to see a link in this with Mike Maignan, who stopped the game in Udinese due to racist insults. Leao perhaps wouldn’t have done it a year ago, perhaps this time he felt adult enough and leader enough to protest.


Tags AC Milan Rafael Leao


    1. You can clearly tell he’s been working more in the development phase of his game, in the build up more. When that happens it takes a toll on the actual scoring. But he is definitely improving overall. (A lot of people don’t see or understand that)

      He isn’t a finished player yet and I am excited to see what that finished product would look like.

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