Rafael Leao player profile – Who is AC Milan’s €35m signing

AC Milan have made Rafael Leao one of the most expensive signings in club history paying 30 million euros for his services plus Primavera youngster Tiago Djalo (valued at 5 million). But who is the 20-year-old Portuguese striker?

He’s a 20-year-old Portuguese striker, and Rafael Leao is now also an AC Milan player. Born in Almada to Angolan parents on 10 June 1999, he played for French side LOSC Lille last season as they secured a historic second-place finish behind Paris Saint Germain and Champions League qualification. A youngster who can still make significant strides forward in terms of his development, he joins the Rossoneri on a permanent basis with the aim of providing speed and freshness to coach Marco Giampaolo‘s attack.

Rafael Leao is a forward who is able to play a number of roles up front: it’s possible to use him as a centre forward and also an attacking wide player, a position which allows him to frequently unleash his speed and power. Standing at 1,88m and weighing 81kg, he also has a physical presence about him. Furthermore, he has excellent dribbling skills, both in tight spaces and when he has more space, and aerial ability. In 2018/19, Rafael Leao was one of three players born after 1/1/1999 to score at least eight goals in one of the top five European leagues, with Jadon Sancho at Borussia Dortmund and Kai Havertz at Bayer Leverkusen being the other two.

The season just gone in France was his first real campaign amongst the professionals. Taking into account both Ligue 1 and the French Cup, he netted eight goals in 26 appearances. Rafael is one of the youngsters who stood out in the French top flight last year. Between December 2018 and January 2019, he scored in four consecutive matches against Nîmes, Toulouse, Caen and Amiens. Rafael Leao was the youngest player to find the back of the net at least twice during the 2018/19 Ligue 1 campaign. Lille signed him in the summer of 2018 from Sporting Lisbon, the club whose youth ranks he came through. Over the course of his last year in Portugal, in 2017/18, he left his mark in the UEFA Youth League in particular: in six matches, he got on the scoresheet five times and provided three assists. He thus earned the chance to play in the first team, who he had already played and scored for in a 4-2 win against ARC Oleiros in the Portuguese Cup on 12 October.

He made his debut in the Europa League on 22 February 2018 against Astana. Shortly after this, he scored his first goal in the Primeira Liga on 2 March 2018 against Porto, beating Iker Casillas just a minute after taking former Roma player Doumbia’s place on the pitch. Taking into account the first team, the B team and the Under-19, he finished the year with 13 goals and five assists having played 22 times.

As regards international football, Rafael Leao has worked his way up through Portugal’s national youth teams, starting from the Under-16. He made his debut for this age group in October 2014, and is now part of Rui Jorge’s Under-21 side. He was involved in the qualifying campaign for the last European Championship.

In an exclusive interview with Milan TV about his feelings after signing up to play in the Red and Black colors. “I’m joining a great club. I’m quick and like taking my man on. I’m here to score and get assists. I want to give my best so that the team can reach its objectives”. 

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