Milan director Paolo Maldini has just left the door ajar on the potential sale of attacking superstar Rafael Leao, with Chelsea thought to be monitoring the situation with a keen eye.
The 23-year-old Portuguese has taken Serie A by storm since relocating to the San Siro from Lille in 2019. He was inspirational as the Rossoneri ended their protracted wait for Serie A title glory, attempting (163) and completing (93) more take-ons than any other player in the Italian top flight last season.
He also scored 11 goals and registered eight assists in that famous 2021/22 Serie A campaign, showing he has substance to complement his style. Such form has naturally generated interest from Europe’s leading lights, and Chelsea are said to be one of the most prominent admirers.
His form has spilled over to this season as well, with the versatile forward having a direct hand in six Serie A goals in just six games (three goals, three assists). His price tag is only likely to go one way if he continues to showcase such form, but Maldini has now refused to completely close the door on a potential future sale.
He told reporters at the Trento sport festival: “Have I rejected offers for Leao and Theo Hernandez? I told some not to even show up.
“The problem is that then they come back, and then you have to decide what to do. In the context of the sustainability of the club, I repeat that we have the accounts in order, and we don’t need to sell anyone. We want to keep the strongest players, but today there are no more non-transferable players.”
Predominantly an inside forward on the left, Leao would likely rival Raheem Sterling for a starting berth were he to move to Stamford Bridge. With that in mind, though, Graham Potter is more likely to shuffle Sterling centrally — a position he often played at Man City — while retaining Leao on the flank.
Both players offer similar qualities, in terms of their dribbling ability and final-third output. Leao, though, has shown a higher inclination to let loose when the opportunity presents itself. Only Lautaro Martinez (28) has had more shots than his 25 in Serie A so far. Sterling meanwhile has only had 11, though some may attribute that to Chelsea’s stuttering start and a managerial reshuffle rather than his own hesitancy up top. And although Sterling has fired less, his shot accuracy is much cleaner, registering nearly 72% accuracy to Leao’s 47%.