Chelsea face £85m transfer hijack for player who is one of the best in Europe

Chelsea could be beaten to the signing of AC Milan ace Rafael Leao this summer (Image: GETTY)

Chelsea are facing a transfer hijack from Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal, who are reportedly willing to pay £85million in exchange for Rafael Leao. The AC Milan winger has developed into one of the best attackers in Europe in recent years and has been linked with a big-money move away from the San Siro.

Milan signed Leao from Lille in 2019 after the player had progressed through the Sporting academy. And the 24-year-old has gone on to bag 57 goals and 50 assists in 209 appearances for his current employers.

The player, who possesses bags of pace and an ability to leave defenders trailing in his wake, has big-game experience in the Champions League and Europa League and featured for Portugal at the last World Cup in Qatar. He was also named on the 25-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or in 2022.

According to Portuguese outlet O Jogo, Al-Hilal are looking to sign Leao at the request of their manager Jorge Jesus, who was in charge at Sporting between 2015 and 2018 when Leao was in the club’s academy.

Leao’s father Antonio is being used as an intermediary between Milan and Al-Hilal, while Portuguese super agent Mario Rui, who is related to the Saudi royal family, could also liaise with the player’s entourage going forward.

Al-Hilal will offer Milan £85m as their opening bid, with the Italian club already indicating to interested parties that they won’t accept anything short of his £149m release clause.

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Chelsea target Rafael Leao has bagged 57 goals and 50 assists in 209 appearances for AC Milan (Image: GETTY)

Leao is said to be attracting attention from a whole host of top clubs, with Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain also thought to be in the running to sign him.

And last month it was reported that Manchester United owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe had met with the Portugal international’s agent Jorge Mendes, who also represents a string of other star players.

Chelsea will need to stump up prodigious sums of cash to prise Leao away from Italy, with the forward contracted to Milan until the summer of 2028. But the Blues could end up disappointed as Leao suggested earlier this year that he had no intention of turning his back on his current team.

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“It’s my home. I like everything. Shopping, fashion and even the weather because it’s similar to Portugal,” he told Corriere della Sera. “If you think it’s cold, try to go to Lille. And then food, I like everything about Italian cuisine. Pasta, risotto, fish. My future is at Milan, I am here and I have four years left [on my contract].

“Milan helped me when I was in a very difficult situation and they supported me. I won’t forget. I am loyal. I was a kid when I arrived and I’ve grown up as a man and as a footballer. I want to win again, my head is here.”