For AC Milan, the goal this year is to reclaim the Scudetto. It is difficult then, to look past Rafael Leao as to who will be the central player to any successful Serie A season.
The Portuguese forward has excelled at Milan since moving to the club from Lille in 2019, and this season he will look to add to his acclaim following the signing of a bumper new contract.
Following the departures of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sandro Tonali, Leao is now undoubtedly one of the primary faces of the club. He is a player that his teammates will be looking to for inspiration and big moments.
Leao could write himself into AC Milan history
For Leao, he will be planning to write himself into Milanese folklore this season. The Rossoneri haven’t had a player reach 20 or more league goals in a season since Ibrahimovic did in the 2010/11 season.
Much has changed, players have come and gone, including Ibrahimovic who re-joined Milan the same year that the 24-year-old Leao joined the club, yet the closest there has been and closest there looks to be currently is Leao.
Last year was his best in terms of output. The majority of his goals came in Serie A and overall he scored 16 times, assisting a further 10 goals. That’s very impressive considering how poor Milan were for much of the 2022/23 season.
Statistically, it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to raise his tally this season as he fits into the bracket of elite-level forwards, scoring 0.5 times per 90 minutes and outperforming his xG per 90 by around 0.16. This shows that he often finds the net even when the odds are against him with that particular chance.
Why could Leao be so desperate to reach 20 goals?
Going back to that 2010/11 season, Milan won the Scudetto that year and would hope that if Leao were to reach that 20-goal landmark then it would bring the Diavolo similar success.
Stefano Pioli has proven that he knows how to get the best out of the winger, and bringing another Scudetto would lessen any worries about his position as coach.
Leao has improved on his goals and assists tally in each season he has been at the club and will be hoping that this will be the year where he surpasses the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career.
Furthermore, as reported by Calciomercato.com, when the parties finally came to an agreement about the structure of his contract, many goal and assist clauses were inserted.
This means that quite simply, the better the 24-year-old does, the more he earns. There is a bonus to be earned if he can hit 20 goals in 2023/24, so the incentive is certainly there.