It was an unusually quiet transfer window for Everton over the summer, and new manager Rafa Benitez may be regretting missing out on some top targets.
According to Italian outlet Calciomercato, the Toffees were eager to secure the services of AC Milan forward Rafael Leao during the summer transfer window in order to provide cover for Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
However, despite them reportedly showing an interest in the highly-rated 22-year-old, it’s claimed that a deal was never close to completion, and Everton have now missed their opportunity to sign the Portugal international.
The report claims that Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund are still linked with the youngster, while his agent Jorge Mendes is attempting to offer his client to fellow Premier League outfit Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Leao has cultivated a reputation as one of European football’s most intriguing young strikers in recent years after impressing for Sporting Lisbon, Lille and Milan during his short career.
Although he initially struggled to settle at San Siro, bagging seven goals and providing six assists in 40 appearances throughout his maiden campaign on Italian shores, the attacking talent eventually found his best form, catching the eye of former striker Rolando Bianchi.
“Leao is very young and is having a great season. Sometimes young people give the impression of mirroring themselves a bit, but his performance are that of a great player,” he said (via MilanNews).
“I had seen him at the U20 World Cup with Portugal, and he made spectacular plays. He has great speed, he has a touch of the ball. Milan have made a great purchase, and if they continue like this, they have great prospects.”
And Leao appears to have taken his game to another level this time around. In just 13 outings in all competitions, he’s scored five goals and laid on two assists, helping Milan climb to the top of the Serie A table in the process.
The £45m-rated gem’s eye-catching displays may be good news for the Rossoneri, but they’re likely to leave Benitez feeling absolutely gutted.
Calvert-Lewin’s current injury woes have left 32-year-old Salomon Rondon leading the line at Goodison Park, and he looks a shadow of the player that caused so much damage to top-flight defences during his time at Newcastle United.
Therefore, Benitez is surely ruing the missed opportunity to snap up Leao, and he’ll be hoping director of football Marcel Brands can make amends in the upcoming January window.