Rafael Leao: Paolo Maldini confirms Chelsea transfer rumours as Milan chief outlines vision to block Todd Boehly plan

·4-min read
Rafael Leao of AC Milan during the Italian championship Serie A football match between AC Milan and ACF Fiorentina on May 1, 2022 at San Siro stadium Credit: PA Images
Rafael Leao of AC Milan during the Italian championship Serie A football match between AC Milan and ACF Fiorentina on May 1, 2022 at San Siro stadium Credit: PA Images

AC Milan technical director Paolo Maldini has confirmed the club are pushing ahead with new contract talks with Rafael Leao, having come clean on Chelsea’s efforts to sign the Portuguese star this summer.

Leao has emerged as one of the top players in the Italian game after helping the Rossoneri to Scudetto glory last season. Indeed, he scored 12 times and added nine assists across 37 appearances in Serie A and the Champions League. And this season, he’s picked up where he left off, scoring three goals and adding six assists in eight appearances.

As such, it’s litle wonder to find Leao as a man in demand. Indeed, he was strongly linked with a move to Chelsea as new owner Todd Boehly set about assembling his squad.

And when Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku were allowed to move on, it was Leao’s name who was most strongly linked with Chelsea.

However, with a huge £130m (€150m) clause in his contract, Milan were not willing to let Leao depart easily. Indeed, Fabrizio Romano has since provided an update on Chelsea’s interest in the forward.

His deal is currently due to expire in summer 2024. As such, his renewal remains one of the top priorities at Milan as we move towards the winter window.

Indeed, Maldini has revealed that those talks over a renewal are already well underway. And the legendary Milan star has also revealed for the first time the extent of Chelsea’s desire to sign him.

Maldini, speaking to Sport Mediaset, also reveals the Italian champions are hoping to tie down Ismael Bennacer and Pierre Kalulu.

Maldini confirms Chelsea links to Rafael Leao

“We have already started talking about the new contract for some time, both with Rafa and with Bennacer and with Kalulu. Renewals can be simple or complicated: the player’s will goes a long way, because the club’s will is there,” Maldini said.

“In the summer, Chelsea sent us an offer, albeit unwritten, for Leao: we turned it down.

“I think the best thing for him is to continue growing here with us. Non-transferable? In words everyone can be, then you have to see what offers arrive.”

Maldini’s final line will certainly give Boehly hope of luring the player to Chelsea.

The Blues ultimately signed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. However, at 33, the former Arsenal man is seen as more of a stop-gap signing.

Leao is reportedly seeking a salary of around £6m per year, which equates to around £115,000 a week. That is currently deemed to be beyond their upper limit. As such, talks between the two parties will continue in the coming weeks and months.

Blues on standby for mega signing

The longer it takes for Milan to agree a deal, the stronger Chelsea’s hopes will grow of pulling of his signing. Even if Milan were to match his demands, the player knows he could earn even more were he to move to the Premier League. And that in itself will present a major issue for the Rossoneri, who have seen several of their top stars depart in recent seasons.

Losing Leao would be a huge blow not just for AC Milan, but for Italian football as a whole. They have seen their product slip behind rival top-five leagues in the past decade. And the departure of Leao would further strengthen that belief.

It’s also easy to see why Boehly is so keen to bring him to Stamford Bridge. With 26 goal contributions in 42 games last season, he’s proven his ability to enhance any attack. His nine in eight this season only underlines his huge talent.

The player is most comfortable playing as an inverted left-winger, cutting inside with his right foot. The Blues, though, do have similar on their books in Raheem Sterling, that said.

Rafael Leao, though, can operate across the attack and Boehly will reportedly leave new boss Graham Potter with the final say on a possible swoop, should Milan have failed to tie him down.

READ MORE: Chelsea boss Potter plotting stunning raid on Tottenham for £100m mega-star

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