AC Milan‘s contract renewal negotiations with Rafael Leao were reported to have broken down, with the Rossoneri left furious by the Portuguese forward’s demands to significantly reduce the minimum fee release clause that exists in his current deal. Those claims have since been denied by Leao’s agent.
La Gazzetta dello Sport reported earlier in the week that Leao and his representatives will only entertain a new contract offer if his release clause is halved from its current value of €150 million.
They said Leao wants this price to be set at between €70m and €80m, with Milan refusing to consider inserting such a clause into any new deal for their prize asset.
That infuriated senior management at the Diavolo, particularly as they wanted to maintain the current figure, or at the very least remove the clause entirely to give them the freedom to consider serious offers for Leao.
Furious Maldini supposedly calls off talks
It is reported that this request has been at the fulcrum of meetings between Leao‘s agent and Milan over the past few weeks, but the most recent round of negotiations saw sporting director Paolo Maldini withdraw from talks abruptly after the demand was again presented to him.
The forward has 18 months remaining on the contract he signed when joining Milan from French club Lille in 2019, and this latest stand-off is putting pressure on the Rossoneri to resolve his future quickly or risk losing him at a reduced price.
Any deal is further complicated by a difference in Milan‘s wage offer and Leao‘s expectations, as well as a debt owed by Leao to former club Sporting CP.
The 23-year-old is hoping that Milan will assist him in settling a €19m compensation owed to the Portuguese club after he broke free of his contract to join Lille in 2016, following an attack by fans on their Lisbon training ground.
Leao’s agent reacts to reports
On Wednesday, Leao’s agent, Tim Dimvula spoke to Sky Sport Italia to brand the reports as ‘false news’, stressing that the Portuguese star would in fact like to stay at the club and talks are still ongoing between the two clubs.
“There is a lot of false and misleading information about Rafael Leao, mainly in the Italian press. This has only one purpose: to paralyse the cordial and professional dialogue that we have with the Milan management regarding the extension of Rafael’s contract. We are currently working together to find a satisfactory solution for all parties,” Dimvula said.
“The player’s priority has not changed: he wants to stay at AC Milan and continue to grow and progress at this club and in this city that he loves so much.
“We therefore firmly deny any desire on the part of Rafael and/or his entourage to lower his release clause in order to facilitate a departure of the player next summer. Rafael is completely focused on the important goal at hand with his current club, and he hopes, in this difficult period, to be able to let him work calmly and serenely to return to winning ways.”
Why is Leao so important to Milan?
Leao has impressed for the Diavolo this season and struck nine goals in 26 games in all competitions, whilst his 11 league goals last term fired Milan to the Scudetto.
In addition to his eight Serie A goals, Leao has chipped in with six assists to keep the champions ticking over in attack.
However, with Stefano Pioli’s side faltering in their Serie A title defence and hitting a woeful patch of form since the turn of the year, the deadlock with Leao adds further cause for concern at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
The Portugal international possessed the pace and explosivity that few in the Rossoneri’s squad can boast, and with a project that is looking to find low-cost and younger options to mould into a team, Milan are reliant on one of their few real star names to secure regular Champions League football.