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Chelsea face £85m transfer hijack from new Saudi force for player 'not keen' on leaving

Rafael Leao of Ac Milan warms up
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images)


Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal are said to be prepared to table an £85million bid for Chelsea-linked AC Milan winger Rafael Leao. The Portuguese attacker has emerged as one of Europe's top talents since his move from Lille to Milan in 2019, and has been linked with a high-profile exit from the San Siro.

Leao, a product of the Sporting academy, has made quite an impact at Milan, netting 57 goals and providing 50 assists in 209 appearances. His blistering pace and ability to outfox defenders, coupled with his experience in the Champions League, Europa League and the World Cup with Portugal, make him a coveted asset.

The 24-year-old was also among the 25 players shortlisted for the Ballon d'Or in 2022, further testament to his growing stature in the game. As per reports from Portuguese publication O Jogo, Al-Hilal's interest in Leao comes at the behest of their manager Jorge Jesus, who oversaw Leao's development at Sporting between 2015 and 2018.

Antonio Leao, Rafael's father, is said to be acting as the go-between for Milan and Al-Hilal, while Mario Rui, a super agent with ties to the Saudi Royal family, could also play a role in negotiations. Al-Hilal's opening offer of £85m falls significantly short of Milan's stated £149m release clause for the player.

Rafael Leao is reportedly on the radar of several elite clubs, including Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, with Manchester United's Sir Jim Ratcliffe also said to have held talks with his agent Jorge Mendes last month, reports the Express.

It is claimed that Chelsea are keen on securing Leao's services, but they'll have to dig deep into their pockets as the forward is tied to Milan until 2028. However, Leao expressed his contentment at Milan earlier this year in an interview with Corriere della Sera, hinting at a reluctance to leave.

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"It's my home. I like everything. Shopping, fashion and even the weather because it's similar to Portugal," he said. "If you think it's cold, try to go to Lille. And then food, I like everything about Italian cuisine. Pasta, risotto, fish. My future is at Milan, I am here and I have four years left [on my contract]."

"Milan helped me when I was in a very difficult situation and they supported me. I won't forget. I am loyal. I was a kid when I arrived and I've grown up as a man and as a footballer. I want to win again, my head is here."