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Manchester City: Leao could replace Sterling

Manchester City are reportedly keen on signing AC Milan winger Rafael Leao and the 23-year-old could be the man to finally replace Raheem Sterling in Pep Guardiola’s side.

According to German journalist Florian Plettenberg last month, the Portugal international doesn’t want to extend his contract at the San Siro beyond 2024, which has alerted City, Chelsea and Real Madrid to his availability after his sensational performances with the Rossoneri.

This season alone has seen the former Lille man contribute an impressive six goals and four assists in 14 Serie A appearances, with WhoScored awarding him a strong 7.12 average rating for his performances in Italy’s top flight.

He also caught the eye with two goals at the World Cup in Qatar, despite only playing 83 minutes for A Seleção as they crashed out in the quarter-finals against Morocco.

Should Leao arrive at the Etihad this year, he would provide the sort of pace, dribbling and finishing ability that Guardiola has arguably lacked since the departure of Sterling in the summer.

While there is no doubt that the England international was guilty of missing a lot of chances during his spell with the Citizens, his goalscoring record cannot be questioned, as he crashed in 131 goals and 95 assists in seven years with the club.

His exit left Guardiola with the main wide options of Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden, none of whom possess the electric pace and goalscoring nous of someone like Sterling.

While Foden has certainly improved his performances in front of goal this season – bagging eight times – Grealish and Mahrez have just two goals and three assists between them in the Premier League, which suggests that another goalscoring wide player is needed in order to take the pressure off Erling Haaland in Guardiola’s side.

Only Kevin de Bruyne scored more in the Premier League for City than Sterling last term, which emphasises that he was a very important part of Guardiola’s squad and is arguably yet to be replaced.

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Leao’s finishing ability is impressive because of his previous performances as a central striker and with City arguably lacking Sterling’s goals in this season’s title race, signing the young Portuguese forward could be the difference between Guardiola’s side and Arsenal.

The Milan star’s previous coach Tiago Fernandes was full of praise for Leao when he made the move to Italy in 2019.

He said: “I’d say that he reminds me of ‘Fenomeno’ Ronaldo for his pace, technique and the quality of his finishing.

“Perhaps he still has to improve in the air, but I want to tell the Rossoneri fans that Leao is a champion who can decide a game by himself.

“He certainly has the talent to play for Real Madrid, Barcelona and all the best clubs in Europe.

“He’s good enough for any team in the world and he has a glorious career ahead of him.”

Therefore, if City want to ease the pressure on Haaland this season they should look to sign a dangerous winger in the mould of Leao, in the hope that he can propel Guardiola’s side back above the Gunners in the next few months.