Rafael Leão is having the most productive season of his career so far, with a personal best goalscoring tally already achieved as AC Milan close in on a possible Italian Serie A title.
However, just as Leão appears to be ascending towards superstar status, the issue of his significant debt to Sporting threatens to influence his future with the Rossoneri despite the desires of both parties to keep him at San Siro.
Leão has 12 goals for Milan this season including nine in the league, both of which represent the highest tallies in a campaign for the forward. His form has led to rumours of a transfer, with the likes of Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle some of the clubs touted as possible destinations, but the general sense around the club is that the player would be keen to agree terms on a new contract.
According to reports in Italy, the problem impacting contract talks is Leão's debt to Sporting, stemming back to his free transfer in the summer of 2018 from the Lisbon club to Lille. In March 2020, The Court of Arbitration for Sport ordered Leão to pay the Portuguese club €16.5m in compensation for terminating his contract following the attack on the club’s Alcochete training ground by a group of supporters.
Sporting await payment
Leão signed for Lille on a free and moved to Milan a year later for a fee of €23m and rising. The decision to award Sporting the damages was upheld earlier this year, with suggestions that interest on the claim could mean a total of nearer €20m owed to the Lions. French outfit Lille are likely to be asked to foot part of the bill, while some believe FIFA are obliged to pay the compensation.
As things stand, it is an issue which hangs over Leão and could influence this summer’s decision over his future. Milan are aware that the player may have to consider a contract which quickest allows him to take care of his end of the settlement, meaning a move could become a more likely proposition.
Both Leão and Milan have stated their desire to resist overtures from abroad. Therefore, the debt owed to Sporting could be an unfortunate and disappointing influence on the timing of the striker’s career path.
By Sean Gillen