Rafael Leao has once again stressed that he sees his long-term future at AC Milan as he thanks several people currently at the club for sticking with him through difficult times.
This season, the Portuguese winger has amassed 11 goals and 6 assists in just 27 appearances this season across all competitions whereas in his first two years at Milan he scored 13 goals and added 9 assists in 73 games, showing that he has found another gear.
Leao gave an interview to DAZN during which he reflected on how his time with Milan has gone so far and some of the tougher early moments that he had to overcome and did with the help of some influential figures, with MilanNews transcribing his comments.
On his early days at Milan: “I arrived in a different league, I was only 19, when you arrive at a great club like Milan it’s not easy. But everyone gave me a hand, this was important.”
On Ibrahimovic: “When you are on the pitch with him you always have to give your best. I lacked consistency on the pitch, but now I’m a different player. Ibra must always be listened to, he tells me that when I enter the field I have to take the ball and go. When feel this confidence of the team-mates is important.”
On Pioli: “Despite the difficulties, Pioli made me play and kept me as a starter. It is thanks to him that I became the current player. He gave me the right mentality because he is someone who pushed me to always believe in myself.
“He said to me: ‘You have talent, but you lack a bit of a winning mentality. If you want to reach the level of Mbappé and Ronaldo, you have to make a difference in all games, otherwise you are a trivial player’.”
On his growth and his family: “Something clicked in my head when I talked to my personal trainer and my family and I said I wanted to show everyone who I was. I also want to do well for my family because if I’m here it’s also thanks to them.
“I hear from my mom every day. My dad always wanted me to finish school before becoming a footballer. With my first salary I took home my parents.”
On what he misses: “I’m not a ‘matador’ striker yet, but I want to become one. With dribbling I can make a difference, but I have to score more. I can also do it starting from the left.”
On the comparison with Thierry Henry: “He is a great player, I am still a young man who wants to reach those levels. I want to make my way and my path and make history here at Milan. Who am I inspired by? Mbappè.”
On the song the fans have made for him: “It’s very nice, they give me great confidence to do better and better.”
🎶 Leaoooo, Leaoooo ❤️🖤
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) February 13, 2022
On team-mates: “Who talks most in the WhatsApp group? Ibra who often makes fun of Saelemaekers because he still doesn’t speak Italian well and is wrong. So we all laugh together.”
On who is the fastest of the team: “Theo and I challenge each other. We have to do a speed race in training. My understanding with Theo? If the opposing defenders follow me, there is more space for him. For me he is one of the strongest left-backs in the world, a fundamental element for our team.”
There are an abundance of reports doing the rounds in the media suggesting that Leao is close to extending his current contract deadline from 2024 to 2026 with a pay rise as part of it to reward him for his growth.
On his renewal: “I’m fine here, Milan is my home. I’ve been here for three years. I want to make history here, I want my name, when I finish playing, to be in the Milan museum. I’m fine here, I’ve already started to talk about the renewal with my lawyers.”