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Milan’s shooting star aiming for Chelsea

MILAN (AFP) – As AC Milan prepared to kick-off their thrilling 3-1 win at Empoli on Saturday, a fan invaded the pitch in search of Rafael Leao, a superstar in the making who will lead the Rossoneri’s charge at Chelsea tonight.

The supporter wanted a selfie with the Portugal winger, who was already a favourite after the way he played in Milan’s Serie A title triumph but is now being spoken of in the sort of tones as for the past icons who made them seven-time European champions.

After hitting double figures for both goals and assists last season the 23-year-old had started this campaign in even more spectacular form, scoring four times and setting up six more in all competitions.

Milan’s only defeat of the season came in the one match Leao has missed, against Serie A leaders Napoli.

And although Stefano Pioli’s team have been hit with a raft of injuries – France’s Theo Hernandez and Mike Maignan among those on the treatment table – Leao’s form has them travelling to London in high spirits.

AC Milan’s Rafael Leao celebrates with a teammate. PHOTO: AFP

Saturday’s incredible win was a perfect example of both Milan’s never-say-die spirit and mercurial talent of their star man, who had a hand in all three of the Rossoneri’s goals.

Having set up Ante Rebic’s 79th-minute opener with a typically devastating display of dribbling, Leao also launched the pass which eventually led to Fode Ballo-Toure putting Milan back in front in stoppage time.

He then capped off a dramatic win in a stylish fashion with 96 minutes on the clock, racing towards goal before scooping a perfect finish over Guglielmo Vicario.

Red-hot Leao will be the key man at Stamford Bridge as Milan attempt to hold top spot in Champions League Group E, which they lead by one point from Dinamo Zagreb, and increase their hopes of making the knockout stages for the first time since the 2013-14 season.

A good performance will surely increase the Blues’ interest in Leao after they made an informal bid to Milan in the close season.

Milan value Leao at well over EUR100 million and want to get maximum value from an asset they know will eventually join one of football’s financial heavyweights, a status they once held in Silvio Berlusconi’s heyday.

Club legend and technical director Paolo Maldini confirmed last month that Milan had rejected an offer from Chelsea but added that “it’s pointless being a romantic… When offers of a certain type are made, no one is unsellable.”

Milan are trying to get Leao to extend his current deal which runs to 2024, and Italian daily Corriere Della Sera report that they are offering EUR6-7 million a year in a bid to stave off interest from the Premier League.

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