AC Milan‘s 2-2 draw with Bologna at the Stadio San Siro on Serie A Matchday 22 was shaped by two details that hadn’t happened for quite some time. First, there was Olivier Giroud and Theo Hernandez each missing penalties – the first time Milan had missed twice from the spot in a single game since 1955; then, Ruben Loftus-Cheek became the first English player to score a brace for the Rossoneri since Mark Hateley in 1986.

Beyond the curious statistics, though, AC Milan fans were made to keep waiting to see something they’ve been so anxiously waiting for – a Rafael Leao goal. Although the forward earned his side a penalty at the end of one of his typically tricky runs, he again showed his lack of precision in the final third that have left Rossoneri fans concerned in recent months.

Leao, again, failed to find the net, extending his Serie A goal drought that has seen him go without scoring since September 29, 2023.

Such a scenario would have seemed unimaginable back in the summer, with Leao having ended the 2022/23 season with 15 Serie A goals and 10 assists, and that after a relatively troubled campaign in comparison to the highs he had hit in their title-winning 2021/22 season. The summer saw Leao‘s Transfermarkt value rise as high as €90 million, and Milan extended his contract at the San Siro until 2028.

The reasons behind Rafael Leao’s goal drought and poor form

It’s hard to work out exactly why Leao‘s performances have dipped so drastically, but it cannot be overlooked that his drought began when Milan‘s overall level dropped, irreparably affecting their title challenge.

Since, even Leao‘s body language has been off. What most frustrates about his form, though, is that he doesn’t appear to be putting in the same off-the-ball effort as before, particularly defensively, and is often seen walking around aimlessly and shaking his head.

Questions have to be asked then of Leao‘s motivation at Milan. After being convinced by Paolo Maldini to extend his stay at the club, the Italian was swiftly out the door. Leao, meanwhile, was probably hoping that he would be in a position to again challenge for silverware after winning the Serie A title in 2022 and reaching the Champions League semi-finals last season.

Rafael Leao celebrates opening the scoring for AC Milan against Napoli. [@acmilan]

How Rafael Leao struggles are affecting AC Milan’s campaign

But as much as Milan‘s inconsistent campaign so far has come as a surprise to many, Leao‘s fluctuating contribution on the pitch is certainly among the main reasons of their struggles.

Against Bologna, the winger often looked like something separate from the rest of the team. His substitution for Noah Okafor even saw a small faction of home fans boo his efforts, this while Milan were still in front.

AC Milan’s Noah Okafor and Rafael Leao celebrates. [@acmilan]

In 87 minutes, Leao managed one single shot on target and made just one of his five attempted crosses, also being dispossessed 19 times.

In the end, Milan‘s inability to be sharp and take their chances saw them drop crucial points. While Leao continues to struggle for form, this is a problem Milan have that is likely to repeat.