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Spurs: Antonio Conte dealt blow in Rafael Leão pursuit

Tottenham Hotspur have been dealt a blow in their bid to bring Rafael Leão to the Premier League.

What’s the talk?

In recent comments cited by Fabrizio Romano in a post on Twitter, AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli revealed that, despite earlier reports suggesting that the Serie A side would be unable to offer the left winger a new contract that matched his wage demands, Paolo Maldini is now close to agreeing a new deal to keep the 23-year-old at the San Siro beyond the summer of 2024.

This is sure to come as a huge blow to Antonio Conte and Spurs, with reports back in October claiming that the 53-year-old manager was interested in a deal to bring the Portugal international to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with the Premier League side said to be willing to offer the forward a package worth €10m per year (£8.6m) – roughly £165k per week.

Regarding the future of Leão, Romano tweeted: “AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli tells Sky Sport on Leão contract talks: ‘He’s really happy with us, it’s clear. Maldini & Rafa’s camp are in negotiations. We’re waiting for good news. He’s happy with Milan, I want him to stay.’ Current deal expires in 2024.”

Conte’s own Mbappe

While the latest update concerning Leão’s future would not appear to be positive for Tottenham’s chances of landing the winger any time soon, considering just how impressive the Portuguese sensation has been for both club and country in recent years, it would appear highly advisable for Fabio Paratici to do all he can to sway the winger away from penning a new deal at Milan.

Indeed, Leão was influential in the Rossoneri’s title-winning campaign over his 34 Serie A outings last time out, scoring 11 goals, registering ten assists and creating six big chances for his teammates, in addition to taking an average of 2.9 shots – 1.1 of which were on target – making 1.7 key passes and completing 2.9 dribbles per game – the most in the league.

These returns saw the £69m-rated talent who Fabio Cordella dubbed a “phenomenon” average a simply sensational SofaScore match rating of 7.19, not only ranking him as Pioli’s third-best player in the league but also as the 22nd-best player in the top flight of Italian football as a whole – while the winger also sealed the Serie A Most Valuable Player award last time out.

The £30k-per-week flanker – who can also operate as a number nine – has continued this fine form over his 20 fixtures in the current campaign, having already bagged seven goals – six in the league and one in the Champions League – and provided a further nine assists – five in Serie A and four in Europe – in all competitions.

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Furthermore, the player who has been labelled “the Portuguese Mbappe” has already made his mark at the Qatar World Cup this winter, turning in an excellent 17-minute cameo in Portugal’s 3-2 win over Ghana – bagging the eventual winner, completing one dribble and taking two shots at goal, seeing him earn an extremely impressive Sofascore match rating of 7.1.

As such, while the 23-year-old’s current €150m (£130m) release clause is undoubtedly an eye-watering amount of money, it would be hard to argue that Leão is not worth this fee, as Paratici could very easily be rewarded with the discovery of Conte’s very own Mbappe-esque talent on the left wing if he were to launch a move for the winger this winter.