Barcelona to rival Chelsea for in-demand European star facing big contract dilemma

Diogo Dalot and Rafael Leao Credit: Alamy
Diogo Dalot and Rafael Leao Credit: Alamy

Barcelona are hopeful of beating Chelsea to the signature of prolific forward Rafael Leao, with his contract situation remaining up in the air.

Leao is one of the most in-demand forwards in Europe right now. The Portuguese international has had a superb campaign with AC Milan up until this point.

He has scored six league goals and provided four assists in the Serie A this season. The 2021-22 campaign was Leao’s most prolific so far with 11 league goals and eight assists.

He predominantly plays on the left-hand side, although he is also capable of playing through the middle.

AC Milan currently sit second in Serie A and are hopeful of keeping hold of Leao despite the reported interest in him.

The 23-year-old has been their top scorer this season and has been more clinical than ever.

Barcelona are ready to battle Chelsea

Chelsea have already made a start to their summer business as they look to finalise a deal for Christopher Nkunku.

Leao has been another player on their watchlist, although they aren’t alone in their interest.

A report from Mundo Deportivo has claimed that Barcelona are keeping an eye on the Milan forward. Leao will be present at the World Cup with Portugal and could drum up some interest if he performs.

Barcelona currently sit top of La Liga after what has been a turbulent few months for the Spanish club. Xavi’s side were knocked out of the Champions League after failing to progress through their group.

They have since reacted well in the league and won their final four matches before the international break.

Leao would be a natural fit into Barcelona’s front three on the left-hand side. Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati have been their left-sided options this season.

Given their delicate financial situation, Chelsea could still be ahead of the Spanish outfit in the pursuit of Leao.

New contract is in the works

His current deal with the Italian side expires in 2024 and the club are keen on tying him down to a new deal.

Leao’s father Antonio Leao has hinted that the attacker might sign a new deal, telling Record: “We are working on it [a new contract].

“Until the deadline of 2024 we will take care of everything, without necessarily Chelsea, Barcelona or Real Madrid. He loves being in Italy. He has a predilection for Italians, the one the Portuguese do not have for him.

“He won the award for best player of the last Serie A not because he was beautiful, but simply because he is the best.”

Leao signed for AC Milan in 2019 after a successful stint with Lille. Across 135 matches he has scored 34 goals for them.

His final product has especially improved across the last two seasons and perhaps he feels as if he is ready for the next step in his career.

Time will tell on his next move, but he certainly won’t be short of offers if he continues to perform.

READ MORE: Man Utd close in on critical forward deal that owes much to Ten Hag brilliance, says Fabrizio Romano

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