AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli has urged Rafael Leao to ignore the chance to leave the club and sign a new contract.
Leao, whose deal expires in 2024, has rejected Milan’s opening offer of an extension following significant interest from Chelsea, who have made it abundantly clear to the 23-year-old’s representatives that they are determined to get a deal done.
Sources have confirmed to 90min that, as it stands, Leao is not prepared to agree to Milan’s proposed terms and he is keen to explore his options as he approaches the final 18 months of his contract.
Chelsea are ready to make a bid for Leao but Milan have warned suitors that they are not yet prepared to negotiate and would only do business for his €150m release clause – a figure Chelsea are very reluctant to offer.
Milan remain hopeful that they can convince Leao to stay and manager Pioli has now publicly urged the reigning Serie A MVP to continue his career in Italy.
“Rafa is happy, available and serene,” Pioli told Sky Italia. “I see him as very positive and, as long as I see my players like this, I can only be satisfied. It is undoubtedly a positive thing for our future.
“I think we’ve done a lot together with all the players, but I don’t think any of us have really reached our full potential yet. Rafa has made an incredible growth journey, always with a growing mind, but he still has many things on which he can work with even more quality and intensity. Clearly, doing it with us, where he knows all the situations, can certainly facilitate that.”
Chelsea would be prepared to sign Leao in January – as was the case before Armando Broja’s injury – but Milan have stressed that a sale will not be permitted unless any suitors meet his release clause. Given he has just 18 months remaining on his contract, Chelsea are keen to avoid spending so heavily.
The Blues have already secured the signing of Christopher Nkunku and have further expensive plans for 2023, including the addition of RB Leipzig centre-back Josko Gvardiol and West Ham midfielder Declan Rice.