As one of the most exciting young attackers in European football, Rafael Leao regularly courts interest. Ever since he first burst onto the scene with Sporting Clube de Portugal, the biggest clubs have followed Leao with keen interest. However, having settled in at top-of-the-table AC Milan, the Portuguese was expected to stick around for many years. Seen as the future of the club in terms of the attack, Leao looked a surefire bet to go to the next level in Milan.
With a potential Serie A title and thus continued UEFA Champions League participation, no exit was expected. In fact, a new deal has been in discussion for some months. Now, though, a new problem has emerged that might make life difficult for Milan. When Leao left Sporting, it was under a contractual cloud. He had been involved in the infamous training ground attack that took place in Lisbon. The player thus rescinded his contract and walked away, first to Lille OSC.
After a fine season in France, Lille made the agreement to sell Leao to Milan for a sizeable sum. Having taken his time to settle in, Leao is now in a position where he is a leading figure in the Milan attack. However, a recent development has come out in that Leao has been held liable for the contract he walked away from.
Sporting have pushed for compensation, and this could see the player held liable to pay as much as €20m to his former club. This could see him either have to work with Milan and potentially Lille also to cover the cost of compensation. However, the added stress of this extra contractual headache is causing Milan problems – to the point where it could see the player sold to alleviate the club of the stress.
Leao on the market this summer?
Any club wishing to buy the player would no doubt need to find an agreement among the four involved parties – Lille, Sporting, Milan, and Leao himself. Milan are keen to sign the player to a new deal prior to the legal agreement being unveiled. The player, though, is naturally looking for the biggest payday that he can get to help build up the funds needed to clear his massive debts.
A salary of €5m has been asked for by agent Jorge Mendes, but Milan are uncertain about going so far. Leao, after all, is only 22 and has only just started to show meaningful consistency on and off the pitch. This would put him among the highest earners at the club, which Milan might struggle to match-up with.
Interest from the Premier League could offer a solution that suits all parties. For Milan, though, it is a potential sign of what could be. Leao was signed to be the future face of the club, a star striker developed in the league from a young age. Now, though, they might need to move on from a player who has had ample time invested into his progress both on and off the pitch.