Transfer Talk: Rafael Leão Linked With Manchester City Move

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The European football season is over and that means the transfer rumor mill is going into overdrive. The Champions League final has been run and done, signifying the end of the footballing calendar in Europe. Now, it’s time to cast an eye on the player movement market. 

There is no shortage of rumors when it comes to the transfer market. Follow this series throughout the summer as I look at the likelihood of some of the transfer rumors doing the rounds and whether I think they will work out.

Rafael Leão

AC Milan forward Rafael Leão has had a sensational season. The Portuguese has starred for the Rossoneri as they lifted their first Scudetto in eleven years. He featured in 34 of their 38 Serie A matches and four of their 6 Champions League fixtures. He became a vital cog in Pioli’s side, being used exclusively on the left wing.

Leão had an incredible 26 goal involvements across all competitions in the 2021/22 season. That return is even more impressive when you consider the LW spot was completely new to the player. Prior to this campaign, he had operated primarily as a number 9 across his career.

With elite numbers like that, the Portuguese international has turned the heads of some of the biggest names in world football. He has been linked with the likes of PSG, Real Madrid, and Manchester United in the days since the transfer mill has ramped up.

The latest club to take a serious interest in Leão is none other than the Premier League champions, Manchester City. Pep Guardiola allegedly sees Leão as the perfect replacement for Raheem Sterling. Sterling is five years Leão’s senior and registered an identical amount of score involvements across all competitions, as the AC Milan winger. If Guardiola can get his hands on a player who is the same quality but 5 years younger- it would bode well for City’s future.

There is obviously a difference in class between the Serie A and the Premier League at the moment. Look no further than Romelu Lukaku to see evidence of that. The Italian top flight has improved in quality immensely in the last few years, but it is still some ways off of Premier League standard.

Sterling has been attracting interest from clubs across Europe himself. With his contract expiring in 2023, there is some belief he will be available during this transfer window.

MY TWO CENTS: <25% LIKELIHOOD

Although this deal makes some sense, I am doubtful that it will get over the line. Not only has City signed Erling Haaland to bolster their attack, but they have also signed River Plate’s Julián Álvarez. 

The Argentine, who has 7 senior caps already, can play across the front three, meaning the signing of Leão would directly impede his development. It would be a different story if City planned to loan out Álvarez next season, but that is not the case. The plan is to develop him at the club next year.

It would surprise me if City signed Rafael Leão. I don’t think anyone takes him away from Milan. Rafael Leão will remain an integral part of the Rossoneri attack next season.

Stuart Kavanagh is a sports journalist from Melbourne, Australia. Along with being the owner of the sports and entertainment website thepyrrhic.com, he is the co-host of the ‘After Extra Time’ podcast. Football mad, he is always down for debate and discussion at @stueyissickofit on Twitter.

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