Chelsea are reportedly planning to ‘return to the assault’ for AC Milan winger Rafael Leao in January after failing to sign him in the summer.
The Portugal international signed for AC Milan in 2019 from Ligue 1 outfit Lille. Around €35m was spent to bring Leao to Serie A.
Leao enjoyed a breakout season in 2021/22 as he helped AC Milan win the Serie A title. He grabbed 14 goals and twelve assists across all competitions.
The 23-year-old has also hit the ground running this season as he has been involved in nine goals in just eight outings.
Chelsea were interested in Leao during the summer but they ended up missing out on the winger.
Fabrizio Romano revealed after the window closed that the Blues ‘made a verbal proposal’ to sign Leao but AC Milan were not interested in letting him go.
This is understandable given that Leao has a €150m release clause in his current contract that expires in 2024:
Romano said: “AC Milan have insisted that Leao is not for sale. The Portuguese attacker has a €150m release clause and Milan don’t want to sell Leao unless this figure is met.
“Chelsea wanted to bring in Leao during the summer transfer window, but unless they paid the €150m, it was never possible for Chelsea to sign the forward.
“Chelsea never made an official bid, but they did make a verbal proposal for around €70m plus add-ons.
“However, AC Milan were not willing to sell Leao for this price, around half the €150m release clause in his contract.”
Paolo Maldini is the Italian club’s technical director and he recently encouraged Leao to pen a contract extension:
“We have already started talking about it for some time with Leao, [Ismael] Bennacer and [Pierre] Kalulu,” Maldini said.
“Is Leao’s the most complicated one? Each renewal can be more complicated or easier. The will of the players goes a long way.
“Rafa knows that to become stronger than now the solution is to stay with us. We are a young and growing team.
“He still has to learn many things, if he reaches a higher level than Milan I think it is also normal to take flight. But we intend to do great things and to grow with him.”
But Chelsea are set to test AC Milan’s resolve again in January. Il Milanista (via Sport Witness) are reporting that the Blues are ‘serious’ about signing Leao.
They do not state when Chelsea will try again, but TuttoMercatoWeb state that they ‘could return to the assault for the player’ in the winter window.
There is set to be a tussle for Leao as AC Milan are unsurprisingly desperate to keep the forward.