AC Milan look to be concluding the signing of promising Portuguese Centre-Forward Rafael Leão for a rumoured €35 million for Lille. Here’s a look at what the attacker brings to Milan:
Massive Prospect and Natural CF
Rafael Leão is joining Milan of a breakout season with Lille where he scored eight times and assisted thrice to pull Les Dogues to an impressive second place finish in the Ligue 1. Leão is a natural secondary-striker who has adapted to the role of a centre-forward and played an important role in opening space for Nicolas Pepe who scored 22 goals last season. Leao held up play well as the CF in a 4-2-3-1. Leão will slip into a similar role at Milan where the core of his responsibility will be to open up space for Piatek, provide an option in the box and put goals in the back of the net. He is a very exciting prospect at just 20 and fits into a role that has been perfectly moulded for him.
Sublime First Touch
My biggest reason for excitement regarding Leão might sound odd but it is his first touch. He has an incredibly soft touch on the ball and has used this to his advantage to beat his man as well as to set himself up to shoot. This trait has severely been lacking in Milan’s forwards recently. Krzysztof Piatek struggled with controlling the ball in his final 10 or so games last season and Patrick Cutrone’s touch has always been hard. Having the incredibly useful soft touch will allow Leão an extra step to beat Serie A defenders who mark tight and will allow his to exploit the reaction times of defenders to create some magic.
Rafael Leão found the back of the net for Lille yet again today - his SIXTH goals in just seven Ligue 1 appearances for the club.— TugaScout (@TugaScoutPT) February 10, 2019
His goal earned Lille a 1-0 victory and cemented their position in 2nd place in the French top flight - only behind PSG!pic.twitter.com/SlNc5qRdKC
Composure and Finishing
Leão has demonstrated his confidence in his ability and in front of goal with Lille. He is not afraid to take on a player, take on a shot and more importantly hit the target. Leão has a composure and patience beyond his age but his finishing is his most impressive feature. He hits his shots low and hard. He is very good at hitting the ball from tight angles and he has the nerve to take a second rather than unleashing wildly as we have had to endure with Hakan Calhanoglu and Franck Kessie. Overall he is the type of player you want to see running in to the box because he will score if the ball falls to him.
1999 - Rafael #Leão is one of the three players born after 1/1/1999 to have scored 8+ goals in the top-5 European Leagues 2018/19, with Jadon Sancho and Kai Havertz. Future. pic.twitter.com/TUxFPmOEvS— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) July 27, 2019
Room for Growth
Despite all the promise, this transfer needs to be taken with a grain of salt as the young Portuguese attacker is largely unproven and has a long way to go to establish himself and now has a price tag to justify. Leão only started 16 games for Lille last season and only had 3 senior appearances with Sporting Clube de Portugal in 2017/18. He does need to work on his passing and his positioning as there are many instances where he does not read the play but he will only get better from here. Moreover, Leão has shown great range in his technical ability and is developing as shown in his performances at the U-20 World Cup where he scored once in three games but played well to bring others into the attack as well.
I really like 19 year old Striker Rafael Leao who scored a goal for Lille yesterday. Host of PL clubs have been keeping tabs on him since broke through Sporting CP Academy. Needs to mature a little but has the tools. pic.twitter.com/X1ELK2nXm8— LFC Watch (@Mobyhaque1) October 28, 2018
Speedy on the Counter
Perhaps his biggest asset to add to Milan is his propensity to drive counter attacks and his strong ability to both hold and release the ball to ensure the flow forward. Leao is pacy and quite strong, this coupled with his intelligence shows when you watch Lille. Their build up and the number of goals they scored on the counter when Pepe, Nanitamo Ikone, Jonathan Bamba and Leão was incredible as each player knew where to find the next when racing at the opposition, this kind of chemistry will be game-changing if he can work similarly with Piatek and Lucas Paqueta. Lastly, the addition of Leão is painting a vivid picture of the profile of player that Marco Giampaolo likes; quick, attack-minded, technically gifted and high work-rate.
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