AC Milan’s Final Hope: The Portuguese Star “Rafael Leao”
“The battle of Milan.” On Sunday, the Curva Sud traveled to Milanello under this flag. And it didn’t matter that it was Mother’s Day in Italy. The AC Milan ultras chose to gather en masse two days before the Euroderby return against Inter, not truly bitter of the first-leg humiliation (0-2) and the heartbreaking defeat in Spezia (2-0) three days later.
Out to congratulate and celebrate them, Stefano Pioli’s players, whose morale is at rock lowest, may therefore depend on an inflated public to block before the clash on Tuesday evening (9 p.m.).
Leao appears to be set to return to the pitch after missing the previous two games. Another reason to be optimistic about a recovery effort, which promises to be arduous.
Having completed the most of the group practice on Sunday, the Portuguese gave it another go on Monday. But came up short in the last match on a smaller surface. And its sensations were pleasant, even though its autonomy was restricted to ninety minutes. Not enough to deter his desire to start an important match. Leo had done everything till the final second in the first leg, including sitting on the bench.
It was all in vain. He prepared for six days this time with one aim in mind: to begin the game. “We must go on the pitch with the conviction that we can beat Inter,” his coach said on Saturday following the league humiliation. I believe we have the necessary skills. We will play the most crucial game of the season.” And doing it with Leo is an entirely other experience.
AC Milan’s Angel and the last hope: Rafael Leao is Back to Battle with Inter
Everyone benefits from Leo’s power.
Milan’s number 17, who was awarded best player of the 2021-2022 season, has 13 goals and 13 assists in 44 games this season. Finally, the game and inspiration. Milan has a 64% winning percentage with him, averaging 2.2 points per game in the league. The decline without him is startling: 0.8 points per game and 11% wins. The only win without the Portuguese international came on October 22 against Milan-Monza (4-1). In the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Napoli, he provided a crucial pass to Ismael Bennacer.
On the way back, it’s him who devises a lone raid to bring caviar to Olivier Giroud. “When he plays, he gives strength to all his teammates,” former Milan midfielder Frank Rijkaard said at Milano Football Week. You must have faith in him for the return.” “He is an extraordinary player who is only halfway through his career,” Zvonimir Boban said of the former Lille star.
The issue is that this Milan has only one Leo. Aside from that, the Milanese offense is light: Brahim Diaz and Junior Messias both have six goals this season, while Alexis Saelemaekers has even less (4 goals).
Ante Rebic is a shell of himself (3 goals), and the newcomers (Origi, De Ketelaere) are struggling to integrate and establish themselves. Not to mention Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s season, which has been reduced to 144 minutes and a penalty conversion. Finally, only Olivier Giroud has lived up to the promise (13 goals, 7 assists). Except the French striker is 36 years old, has been absent for a month owing to injury (tendon inflammation, calf issue), and no one can give him the relay. The depth of the bench is one of the key differences between Milan and Inter.