Despite posting his best attacking numbers yet, Rafael Leao did not make the Ballon d’Or shortlist for the 2023 edition of the award.
According to Tuttosport (via PianetaMilan), Leao is the winner of the ‘wooden ball’ because a season of 16 goals and 15 assists was not enough to gain acknowledgement from the Ballon d’Or jurors who snubbed him.
The Portuguese winger was excluded from the 30 final candidates in the running for the award. It is a shame of course on a personal note for Leao, but also a stimulus for a player who – at 24 years old and in his fifth season with the Rossoneri – is now called to take a further step.
This applies to both the playing side and what he does with the ball at his feet but also a leadership point of view too. He must be consistent to justify the salary of almost €7m net per year received after the recent renewal of his contract, which made him the highest paid in the Milan squad.
Tonight, Leao will most likely be a starter for Portugal against Slovakia, and he will aim to nail down that spot on the left side after mostly being a substitute at the last World Cup in Qatar.
With Milan he has already gradually pushed down on the accelerator. He was intermittently dangerous in Bologna, devastating against Torino (two assists) and decisive against Roma (a goal with a half bicycle kick).
In Stefano Pioli’s 4-3-3 he remains the point of reference. His goal is to bring the 20th Scudetto to the Rossoneri, win the second star and with that become a star of world football.