Rafael Leao’s father Antonio Leao has given an interesting interview regarding the future of his son and how he feels at AC Milan.
Now that Milan have closed the chapter of 2022 with Sunday’s win against Fiorentina at San Siro, the newspapers will no doubt go back to writing about the contentious issue that is the renewal of Leao’s contract, which is currently set to expire in 2024.
Virtually every major source is reporting that it will be a complex negotiation because of the €19.5m fine jointly owed by Leao and Lille to his old club Sporting CP and the big pay rise that the winger wants to reflect his development and status as a star within the league.
Antonio Leao – Rafael’s father – gave an interview to the well-known Portuguese newspaper Record in which he spoke at length about a number of issues. MilanNews have relayed his quotes, which we have translated below.
Is this call-up for the World Cup in Qatar proof that the journey of Rafael Leão has been worth it?
“Yes, one way or another – I’m not here to talk about the turbulent past we had – but yes. In a way it was worth it! He grew up, he learned, he suffered and today he is there!”
What has changed from little Rafael Leão, three or four years ago, to the great Rafael Leão, who today seems to be a staple for the national team?
“He grew up defending the talent he always had. He fought to make his dream come true. He worked until today and managed to make his dream come true. Simple.”
If he hadn’t left Portugal, would he have reached this level?
“No, it was not necessary to leave. Things just happen. And in his life they happened. It was not a preference to leave. It was a turbulent time, but things happened. God guided me, he was with me. Did it hurt? I did what I did. ‘What father does he have? Poor boy, he’ll get lost!’
“But today Rafael is where he is and a reporter never introduced himself and said ‘What a fantastic father he has! He was about to get lost, he has a great man beside him!’ Because I was always with my son. We had the problems we had (which I don’t want to mention), but I was always by my son’s side.”
Speaking of decisions taken, the judgment of the courts means payment of a substantial fee to Sporting. How did Rafael manage to stay out of all this, join the national team and be the best player in Serie A last season?
“Very quickly, the problems of the courts are of the lawyers and judges who solve them. Rafael is not an abandoned child. Rafael Leão has a family. He lives on the advice of his father, mother, uncle, family. Let’s ‘divide the tides through the villages’ of Rafael. This problem of the courts is with the parents. The problem with football is his. And Rafael responds on the football fields. The courts decide.”
Have you ever thought that this situation affected him in any way? Have you ever thought that a stronger shock could come and push him astray?
“No, because we are right and Rafael himself knows that we are right. What is happening in the courts are the people who are making it up. We are right. That’s why Rafael is working normally, without problems. Rafael’s psychologist is called António Leão.
“I give advice to him, I talk to him, I help him stay where he is. And he will be even better. It’s not Rafael who will solve the problem with Sporting. Who will solve the problem of Sporting are the courts, the judges, but this is a question about which I do not want to dwell on.”
The latest news talks about a renewal with Milan and interest from Chelsea, and that everything depends on the resolution of the issue with Sporting. Is that so?
“The answer is: we’re working on it!.”
What does this mean? Will he renew with Milan or go to Chelsea?
“We are negotiating, because Rafael Leão has a contract that expires in 2024. Until that date, we are negotiating on everything. Without Chelsea, without Barcelona, without Real Madrid, we are dealing with this.”
Is Rafa’s will to stay in Italy or leave Milan after 2024?
“He loves being in Italy. He has a predilection for the Italians, the one the Portuguese don’t have for him. He won the award for best player of the last Serie A not because he was beautiful, but simply… because he is the best.”
What does Leao have to do at the World Cup?
“What Rafael has to do in Qatar is what he has always done at Milan. And do it better. He has to do what he has always done since he was a child, leave his scent on the pitch. He has a scent and leaves it on the pitch. National team, win, work hard, as you always have. He will work hard.
“I always tell my son: ‘For two minutes, five, ten, whatever the coach gives you, do your best, because a good player scores a goal in two minutes’. And he has already scored. Therefore, I have faith in my son. I have full confidence that he will play in Qatar. As long as the coach gives it to you. In the time that is given to him, he will have fun.”