Star forward Rafael Leao has penned a five-year contract with AC Milan on the eve of his side’s Champions League semi-final against Inter Milan.
According to The Athletic, the 23-year-old winger has pledged his long-term future to the San Siro after exhausting negotiations lasting almost a year.
The Rossoneri fought tooth and nail to tie the Portugal international down to a new deal after he caught the eye of numerous high-profile European clubs.
Leao soaked up the limelight as the headline performer in Serie A last season, winning the MVP award for his massive contribution to the club’s first Scudetto since 2011.
Despite suffering a minor dip in form this term, the former Lille man has been a game-changer for Milan in the Champions League, helping Stefano Pioli’s side reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2007.
He was nothing short of impressive as the Rossoneri squeezed past newly-crowned Serie A champions Napoli in the quarter-finals, delivering assists in both legs to push his team into the last four.
Unfortunately for the Milan faithful, the quicksilver forward picked up a thigh problem in the early stages of a 2-0 home triumph over Lazio on Saturday.
While Pioli remains hopeful of having his best attacker in the matchday squad, there’s a feeling the Portuguese ace could have to stay on the sidelines on Wednesday.
Leao’s absence would significantly derail Milan’s chances of progression, especially with arch-rivals Inter hitting a purple patch in the build-up to the first European edition of the Derby della Madonnina since 2005.
Simone Inzaghi’s side have racked up five consecutive wins in all competitions heading into this fixture as they look to reach the final for the first time since lifting the trophy in 2010.
Regardless of what happens in this blockbuster semi-final tie, Milan can celebrate Leao’s extension after losing some key first-team players, including Gianluigi Donnarumma and Franck Kessi, on free transfers in recent years.
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