Milan star Leao flattered by Real Madrid interest but assures 'feet are firmly on the ground'

By Sports Desk May 27, 2022

Rafael Leao expressed his excitement over speculation of interest from Real Madrid, but the Milan forward assured his "feet will remain firmly on the ground".

The Portugal international has starred for Milan since joining from Lille in 2019 and played an integral role as Stefano Pioli's side secured their first Scudetto in 11 years.

Leao scored 11 times and assisted eight in 34 Serie A appearances over the 2021-22 season, setting up two goals in the final-day 3-0 win over Sassuolo that sealed the title.

No Milan player outscored him – Olivier Giroud also scored 11 league goals – or recorded more assisted for the Rossoneri this term.

Leao regularly tormented Serie A defences with his powerful runs down the left flank, with only Adama Traore (107), Kylian Mbappe (112) and Allan Saint-Maximin (150) completing more dribbles than him (98) across Europe's top five leagues.

The form of Pioli's key man has led to reports Madrid are interested after missing out on Paris Saint-Germain's Mbappe, but Leao insists he is focusing on life with the Rossoneri.

"I'm at Milan, I have another two years on my contract," he told A Bola. "Untouchable? I'm happy with these words. I feel at home, but right now my focus is on the national team.

"[The rumours about Real Madrid] make me happy, but my feet are firmly on the ground. It is a pride to work with highly experienced players. 

"As for my development, I left Sporting [CP] when I was young and went to Lille. People may not know it, but Ligue 1 is a strong league, I have evolved."

Leao will now target World Cup success with Portugal in Qatar as he looks to partner fellow Sporting academy graduate Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Two years have not gone as I would have liked, but now I am more mature and confident, the season has gone as I wanted," he added.

"I hope to do great things in the future. I want to be a point of reference in my club and in the national team… the highest point is, for example, winning a World Cup."

Meanwhile, Milan technical director Paolo Maldini insists Leao will never be put up for sale by the Rossoneri.

"Of course he is not for sale," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "He is still a rough diamond who from one year to the next has already improved so much.

"We signed him from Lille for €24million and immediately put a €150m release clause on him, because we believed so much in this player.

"He was always potentially a great champion, but he needs to continue this growth process that he is only part-way through.

"He is extremely intelligent but needed to be helped along the way and I spoke to him a lot.

"Clearly, if in future Milan are not at the level of Leao or if Leao is not at the level of Milan, things could change. But at this moment, the growth is exponential for both the club and the player."

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