AC Milan bolstered their ranks with another summer signing on Wednesday as they announced the arrival of Leo Duarte from Flamengo.
He becomes the fifth summer capture for Maldini and the rest of the Rossoneri leadership after Theo Hernandez, Rade Krunic and Rafael Leao, Ismael Bennacer.
A former team-mate of Lucas Paqueta, Duarte becomes the 36th instalment in Milan’s long line of Brazilian heritage, which has seen the likes of Kaka, Pato, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Thiago Silva, Cafu, Ronaldinho and many others.
The player may be somewhat of an unknown quantity to some, so we are here to give you the low down on the club’s latest recruit…
Born in Mococa, Brazil back in July 1996, Duarte played his youth football at his local Sao Paolo based club Desportivo Brasil.
Interestingly, they are the same club who announced a partnership with Manchester United back in 2008, with a view to exchanging players so they could be coached with different styles.
A move to Rio de Janeiro giants Flamengo then followed aged 17, where he rapidly rose to prominence after a number of impressive performances with their B team.
This culminated in 2016, when he captained Flamengo juniors to a Copa São Paulo de Futebol Júnior trophy, which is the top youth tournament in Brazil.
Just a few weeks after that Duarte began training with the senior team after calls for him to be promoted, and on 5 March 2016 he made his senior debut for the club against Bangu in a Rio de Janeiro State League match.
An injury crisis then gave Duarte even more chance to impress, and he went on to play seven times in the 2016 Brazilian Série A and once Copa do Brasil, all matches as a starter.
He played just twice in the league the following season due to a combination of factors, but 2018 was Duarte’s big breakout season as he made 37 appearances in the league and cup.
He formed a formidable partnership with veteran club captain Rever, helping Flamengo keep 20 clean sheets in their 38 Serie A games last year.
In 2019 thus far, Duarte has started seven of the club’s 12 league matches, conceding just seven goals in the games he has been a part of. Then, Milan came calling…
As mentioned earlier, Serginho is one man who has been very vocal in his praise of Duarte.
“He is a player of great personality, he is only 23 years old but has already played many games with Flamengo.
“He still has a lot of room for improvement and Milan believed in him making a great buy.
“Could he be the new Thiago Silva? Every Brazilian will need a period of adaptation, but he has the characteristics to do well in Italy.”
The argument could easily be made that Milan have signed a starter an subsequently a partner for Alessio Romagnoli by acquiring Duarte for just €11m.
The right-footed defender represents an alternative option to Mateo Musacchio and – given his struggles last season – possibly even an upgrade.
Despite being very confident on the ball like his prospective new partner Romagnoli (and sometimes too confident), Duarte possesses a number of promising attributes that actually suggest he could be the perfect package as a centre-back.
His main strengths are awareness and anticipation; the number of times he can be seen sliding across to cut out opposition crosses or other scoring opportunities is impressive.
Strength is another one of Duarte’s key assets and he does not shy away from a shoulder-to-shoulder battle, while he has decent speed – especially in pursuit when he resembles a man possessed.
Aerial duels are another area where he excels, despite the 23-year-old being just 6ft tall. He has won the most of any Flamengo players in the last two league campaigns.
💪 Leo Duarte has won 101 aerial duels in the last two Brasileirão campaigns (2018 and 2019), more than any other Flamengo player.
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) August 2, 2019
On the other hand, his ability to play the ball out from the back – sometimes by carrying it himself – suggests that he is exactly the kind of defender who will fit Giampaolo’s system perfectly.
His 4-3-1-2 formation requires two defenders who are very comfortable on the ball and can build out from the rear, so in that respect he could also be the perfect compliment to Alessio.
Since it is – as it stands – Musacchio and Duarte who will be battling for that starting spot (at least until Caldara is back in October/November), it seems the most fair comparison to make.
Looking at last season’s league stats, Duarte had both more appearances (33 to 29) and minutes (2939 to 2610) and accrued more yellow cards (3 to 2) although both players managed one goal.
The duo have impressive pass accuracy rates, with Duarte at 89.7% and Musacchio at 90%, though the former won comfortably more aerial duels per game (2.5 to 1).
In other defensive categories it is a fairly mixed bag, as the Spaniard comes out on top in tackles (1.4 to 1.2) and clearances (3.8 to 3.6).
However, his new Brazilian team-mate has more interceptions (1.1 to 1), was dribbled past less (0.2 to 0.3) and gave away less fouls (0.8 to 0.9) – but both average 0.7 blocks per game.
Musacchio interestingly averages far more passes completed (60 to 39.2) but perhaps most significant is the overall rating out of 10, in which Duarte comes out on top comfortably (6.99 to 6.73).
Deal or no deal?
With a fee of just €11million (including bonuses), this feels like another low-risk high-potential signing for Milan to follow up a similar signing in Rade Krunic.
There is no doubt that Duarte has showcased his talents over the last two years in Brazil, but as Serginho alluded to there is definitely a period of adaptation to Serie A that must be accounter for.
Duarte also has just one season of consistent football under his belt, though reassuringly that was the period where he developed the most.
Question marks still remain over whether this will be an intelligent purchase: the obviously shortcoming currently is that Milan should have been in the market for a guaranteed first-choice centre-back with more experience.
The €11m spent here could have gone towards that, but the hope with Duarte is that he can hit the ground running just as his former team-mate Paqueta did back in January.
Then, who knows, maybe he could be the next Thiago Silva.
Transfer rating: 6.5/10