Down The Wings

Manchester United Fan Blog

Rafael Leão Scout Report: Manchester United interested in Portuguese forward

Manchester United is reportedly one of the clubs interested in Rafael Leao. (Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Over the last few years, Rafael Leão has become one of the most exciting young attackers in world football and he is now attracting interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs including Manchester United.

Date of Birth: 10/06/1999 (23)
Position: Left-Winger
Strong Foot: Right
Height: 1,88 m (6ft 2in)

Who is he?

Leão is an exciting 23-year-old winger currently playing for Italian giants AC Milan. The Portuguese international spent a large part of his youth career at Sporting but only ever made five first-team appearances for the Portuguese club. In the summer of 2018, he moved to France and joined Lille where he played 24 times in Ligue 1, scoring eight goals and picking up three assists. In August 2019, Leão left Lille after one season and made the switch to AC Milan. Leão has managed 31 goals and 29 assists in 129 appearances so far for the Rossoneri.

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Last season was Leão’s real breakout season as he scored 14 times and assisted 12 in 42 games. After a good 2021/22 campaign, the Portuguese winger has followed that up with a great start to the 2022/23 season having already managed 10 goal contributions in just 13 games in all competitions.

Leão is now approaching the point where he’ll have to decide on his future very soon. His contract at Milan expires in June 2024 and Milan are desperately trying to agree a new deal with the Portuguese forward. While Milan have said that they’re confident they’ll agree to a new contract with Leão, nothing is certain yet and if he doesn’t sign a new contract, it’s very possible that he’ll leave the club in the summer.

Due to his impressive performances over the last year, Leão has reportedly attracted interest from Manchester City, Chelsea and also Manchester United. According to Fabrizio Romano, Manchester United have sent scouts in recent weeks to scout a few AC Milan players including Leão himself. Chelsea are also known admirers of the player and made a bid in the summer for Leão believed to be in the region of £75m.

Strengths

Leão is extremely exciting to watch – the type of player to get fans to their seats. His technical ability is brilliant and he’s a world-class dribbler. Over the last year, Leão has completed around three dribbles per 90 in the Serie A which ranks him amongst the best in his position. In addition to his technical ability, Leão is also rapid which makes it even harder for defenders to stop him. In the last year, he averaged 8.50 progressive carries per 90 in the Serie A which just shows how comfortable he is with the ball at his feet.

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The Portuguese is also quite creative. Over the last year, he’s averaged 3.80 shot-creating actions per 90. He’s also already created five big chances and picked up six assists in all competitions so far this season which is quite impressive considering he’s only played 13 games. In addition to creating chances for his teammates, Leão is also quite good at putting the ball in the back of the net himself. He found the back of the net 14 times in all competitions last season and has already scored 4 times this season – that’s 18 goals in 55 games since the start of the 2021/22 season. That is a huge improvement on what he managed in his first two seasons at Milan. In his first two seasons in Italy, he played 73 times but only managed to score 13 goals.

Leão is also decent physically and aerially which would help him in adapting to the Premier League. When Milan faced Chelsea in the Champions League, Milan struggled in both games meaning it was difficult for Leão to make an impact but he certainly showed glimpses of his undeniable quality.

Weaknesses

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In his early days at Milan, Leão was sometimes accused of poor decision-making as well as being wasteful in front of goal and having poor end product. However, Leão has improved so much over the last 12-18 months and his talent is really starting to shine through. While he sometimes does still make a bad decision, that has become less and less prevalent in his game over the last few months. He’s also become far better in front of goal which the stats prove.

Where would he fit in?

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If United did sign Leão, it’s difficult to know exactly where he’d fit in. United are in need of a striker and while Leão can play centrally, his attributes are better suited to playing on the left-wing and that isn’t a priority position for The Red Devils at the moment. If United did sign Leão, it could potentially mean that Erik ten Hag will develop Marcus Rashford into United’s main striker with the intention to play Leão on the left. While he has played through the middle this season, Rashford’s attributes seem to be more suited to the left-wing and there’s a lot he’d have to add to his game in order to become United’s main no.9. Against teams which play a high-line, he works well as a striker due to his pace on the counter-attack. However, against teams which sit back, he doesn’t offer much through the middle as he struggles to find space, he’s also not great with his back to goal and also doesn’t offer much of an aerial threat in the box from crosses and set-pieces.

Another way Leão could fit into United’s team if he moves to Old Trafford is if Ten Hag makes him the no.9. United need a striker and while Leão’s attributes are more suited to playing on the wing, he has played through the middle before and Ten Hag could develop him into a specialist striker. However, out of the 128 games Leão has played for Milan, he’s played 40 of them as the striker but only managed 8 goals.

Verdict

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While Rashford has played as a striker on numerous occasions this season, his long-term future is probably on the left wing. United also have Jadon Sancho who’s capable of operating on the left-hand side. There’s no doubting Leão’s quality and he would certainly add quality and depth to United’s attack but investing a large amount of money on a position that isn’t a priority wouldn’t be the smartest decision.

United need to add a specialist striker to the team and Ivan Toney is a player that many fans feel could fill that role. He showed last season that he’s good but he’s taken his game to another level this season and is only going to get better and better.

Another potential option is Cody Gakpo. Now, similarly to Leão, Gakpo has also spent the majority of his career on the left wing. However, Gakpo is very likely to make the transition to being a no.9 at some point. He has almost all the attributes needed to become a world-class no.9. He is a lethal finisher, his movement in central positions is fantastic, he’s strong, good with his back to goal and is also capable of linking the play. The only real weakness is his aerial ability but at 1.89m tall, that’s something that he could definitely improve.

While signing Leão doesn’t seem to be necessary based on what United need, he’s obviously a player that Manchester United are scouting and if Erik ten Hag wants to add Rafael Leão to his squad, Manchester United need to back him and pursue a deal for the AC Milan winger if he doesn’t sign a new deal with the Italian giants before the summer transfer window opens.

Founder/Owner of UnitedConstantly

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