Rafael Leão is one of the in-form players in Italian football, after adding to his recent string of impressive showings with another superb goal in AC Milan’s 3-2 win at Atalanta in Sunday night’s big Serie A clash.

Earlier in the day another young Portuguese striker hit the net, with Beto opening his account for new club Udinese in a 3-3 draw at Sampdoria. Elsewhere, José Mourinho’s Roma got back to winning ways with victory over Empoli and remain in a top four position.

Former Sporting forward Leão put Milan 3-0 up in the 78th minute on their trip to Atalanta, but his brilliant finish into the top corner from just inside the box proved the winner following a late fightback from the hosts. Atalanta scored twice in the closing stages to see the game end 3-2 in favour of Leão’s Rossoneri, meaning his goal was just the latest example of the Portuguese affecting big matches for his side.

In the last month, Leão has scored against Lazio and Atletico Madrid, as well as playing a pivotal role in Milan’s goals against Liverpool at Anfield. Having now snatched what was effectively the winner in Lombardy, the 21-year-old is showing a growing consistency in performing against the toughest opposition.

Leao’s recent form was not enough to earn him a spot in Fernando Santos’ most recent Portugal squad, but a return of 4 goals from 7 appearances this season puts the youngster well on track to have his best season since moving to Italy from Lille in 2019. Leão scored 6 goals in his first season at San Siro and 7 last term, so an improvement in strike-rate is a promising indicator of more to come from the Almada native.

Beto off the mark for Udinese

Lisbon-born striker Beto scored his first goal in the colours of Udinese during their six-goal thriller against Sampdoria. The teams shared the points in a 3-3 draw which saw Udinese twice lead before falling 3-2 behind, leaving Fernando Forestieri to snatch a point with an 82nd-minute equaliser at the Luigi Ferraris stadium.

The former Portimonense forward was on-hand to score from close range after the ball came back off the post following a corner. Beto’s goal put Udinese 2-1 up on an afternoon which saw him come up against fellow Portuguese Adrien Silva, who played 73 minutes in the Sampdoria midfield before being replaced.

Beto received praise in the media after the match, not only for his goal but for his physicality and ability to retain possession. The 23-year-old scored 11 goals in the Primeira Liga last season, leading Udinese to secure Beto’s signature on a loan deal with obligation to buy, which will cost the club a reported €10m.

Roma back to winning ways

Roma recovered from their derby defeat to Lazio last weekend with a 2-0 win over Empoli in the capital. José Mourinho’s side scored either side of half time through Lorenzo Pellegrini (42’) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (48’) to stay in the top four, albeit six points off Napoli who have made a 100% start after seven rounds.

Mourinho has been emphasising that his side still lacks a little experience in the ranks but told DAZN after the match: “We played well, solid and compact. We were in control against a team that plays good football and 15 points from seven rounds is a good tally.”

There was also a humorous exchange between Mourinho and Napoli boss Luciano Spalletti, with the Portuguese joking that his contemporary cannot continue winning. “In my opinion, you must lose your next away match,” Mourinho said as the pair appeared together on Italian television on Sunday.

By Sean Gillen

@SeanGillen9

Comments (8)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

What I would give to have Fernando Santos cell phone number. Ok whatever you do Fernando, do not call up Leao please! Continue to call up Guedes and Rafa Silva they’re amazing! It’s so important to call them up because when you sub them in the...

What I would give to have Fernando Santos cell phone number. Ok whatever you do Fernando, do not call up Leao please! Continue to call up Guedes and Rafa Silva they’re amazing! It’s so important to call them up because when you sub them in the game in the 99th minute, they’re so pivotal because they can pass the ball backwards for the team. Everyone knows that having an incredibly fast and direct 1 vs 1 winger with goals in him isn’t important, just look at all the great club teams, none of them have fast wingers that can create for themselves. If you watched the euros Fernando, you might have watched Italy play and their best player was Chiesa and he was so great at not running with the ball and passing backwards. Please Fernando never call up Leao ever. Thanks for your time Fernando.

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Justin your wishes have come true, the problem being that Santos will never use Leao. He will sit on the bench and watch. Great comments keep it coming.

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I’m not a fan of Santos but in reality what do you expect. Leao is a great talent and so is Felix and also this kid Viera coming up on Porto but these aren’t anything like the Italian players. Every player on that Italian team worked tirelessly...

I’m not a fan of Santos but in reality what do you expect. Leao is a great talent and so is Felix and also this kid Viera coming up on Porto but these aren’t anything like the Italian players. Every player on that Italian team worked tirelessly with or without the ball. These are extremely talented and lazy players who need to be in the right system with the right coach to really thrive. Santos posses none of these qualities and will continue to deploy players like Bernardo and Guedes and Rafa on the wing because despite the fact they don’t score they will run tirelessly. I’d much rather see Portugal bring in an offensive coach to tailor a gameplan around these players which allows Portugal to control the game like the Spain generation a decade ago and still compete even with players who won’t track back because they almost never lose possession. However this is not the case with Santos and as much as I don’t like him with his tactics it would be suicide to play leao and Ronaldo or Felix in the same lineup haha. If you think Felix and Ronaldo are lazy believe me once you see Leao it will make Felix look like Kante.

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@Justin

I understand what you’re saying but their has to be risks taken when you’re a manager. One of the reasons why I like Guardiola despite many people not liking him is the fact that he gives personal instructions to each and every player....

@Justin

I understand what you’re saying but their has to be risks taken when you’re a manager. One of the reasons why I like Guardiola despite many people not liking him is the fact that he gives personal instructions to each and every player. Look it, here’s the deal. So you’re saying Leao doesn’t work that hard, ok so that’s his weakness. However, this kid is a mismatch on the wing for the majority of fullbacks anywhere in the world. So if you’re Santos you sub in this kid in the 60th minute and tell him listen Rafael, I want you to run at the fullback and make his life f**king hell for 30 minutes, make him foul you around the box(free kicks are great around the box for us), create chances for yourself and link up with Ronaldo/Andre Silva when it’s available. That’s what you tell this kid, that’s direct coaching right there. Now if you’re worried about his lack of tracking back, let’s face it we shouldn’t be losing to Luxembourg, Qutar or any of these bullshit teams in our wc qualifying group. If they counter us, our defense should be able to nullify these average clubs.

The alternative is we keep calling up Guedes and Rafa who will get the ball on the wing and literally look to pass the ball backwards 90% of the time. Those guys aren’t killers, they don’t have the skill set to do these things and neither does Jota. Jota is a relentless worker and he’s opportunistic so he’s a key player. Guedes in that left wing spot or Rafa on the right wing spot isn’t scary, it’s just predictable. Yes I understand that they’ve had moments in their careers but there’s outliers to everything. Guys like Leao and Renato are rarity’s so put this kid in and let him give fullbacks hell.

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The problem with talented yet problematic wingers is that when they're off, the whole team is off. It only takes one game to sink a tournament. Santos his been struggling to find the right balance due to his reluctance to play three at the back...

The problem with talented yet problematic wingers is that when they're off, the whole team is off. It only takes one game to sink a tournament. Santos his been struggling to find the right balance due to his reluctance to play three at the back not due to his lack of faith in Leao.

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Well it looks like Leão was just called up to replace Rafa, so it'll be interesting to see if he gets any game time.

I've watched quite a bit of him over the years and his talent is undeniable. He can be unplayable when you give him space,...

Well it looks like Leão was just called up to replace Rafa, so it'll be interesting to see if he gets any game time.

I've watched quite a bit of him over the years and his talent is undeniable. He can be unplayable when you give him space, making him an absolute nightmare to defend against in transition, but his work rate and end product have always been in question.

It is also important to note that he plays his best football on the left side of a front three. He may be tall and strong, but he isn't a proper #9. He doesn't have the instincts of an old school center forward and he isn't particularly effective at heading the ball. He's at his best when isolated against a full back, especially with space.

So in terms of characteristics, he is somewhat similar to Guedes and Rafa despite the size difference. All three players need space to be at their best and none of them have proven to be clinical in front of goal. Leão however has the highest ceiling of the three and if he can continue to perform consistently and improve his work ethic, he will be a regular call up ahead of all the other wingers at Santos' disposal.

Jota and Félix are second strikers rather than wingers in my opinion. Jota is fast, direct, and clever with his movement whereas Félix is a much more cultured, technically gifted alternative capable of moments of individual brilliance.

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No coach wants a young player who thinks he is the king. Leao is a stinker. He gave final prove he has not what it takes to be a starter for the senior squad. Be humble, work hard, don‘t complain. Leao did nothing of this for the Sub 21. I fully...

No coach wants a young player who thinks he is the king. Leao is a stinker. He gave final prove he has not what it takes to be a starter for the senior squad. Be humble, work hard, don‘t complain. Leao did nothing of this for the Sub 21. I fully understand why Santos choses Guedes over Leao. And this even though I don‘t like Santos. In first place, Leao has to take care not to end up like a Balotelli. And when he managed that, let‘s see if he has the work ethic to be eligible for the NT. Leao is not critical mass for the NT. Renato is, no doubt. And Pedro Neto might become. But Leao? Does just slightly better than Bruma.

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@rolf Gerber

This is why coaching matters. Leao is an undeniable talent, if you can’t put him in spots to succeed then you’re not a great coach. We’re not talking about a mass murderer here, we’re talking about a kid that’s a little polarizing...

@rolf Gerber

This is why coaching matters. Leao is an undeniable talent, if you can’t put him in spots to succeed then you’re not a great coach. We’re not talking about a mass murderer here, we’re talking about a kid that’s a little polarizing and not afraid to be different. Listen, Portugal doesn’t have the luxury that other big countries have, we don’t have 25 great wingers waiting in the pipelines like France, Brazil etc. Leao needs to play because he’s different, he’s the future on that left wing. When I hear people like you say these things, that’s what scares me the most. Dude….do you really think Guedes has more upside than Leao?? Why, because he’s a nicer person haha who cares, this isn’t 1955. Leao needs time to play and he needs to know that he’s trusted. Young kids like him that are a little rough around the edges need to be played and coached well and put into the right positions. Bolatelli was the ultimate hot head playing for a racist country and he never felt comfortable. When you talk like you don’t trust Leao, that’s more or less the same reason why balotelli failed. He didn’t feel wanted so he acted out. Put faith in Leao and let him play his game and he’s the best left winger we have bar none. I’m not saying Leao is the second coming of Jesus over here but I do know that his ceiling is higher than anyone else’s in his spot, now it’s up to the coaching. Something I have no faith in with Santos but that’s another story for another day.

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