Rafa Leao: ‘Ibra and Ronaldo were crucial for me, I tried to bring Cancelo to Milan’


Milan winger Rafael Leao revealed he previously asked Joao Cancelo to make the switch from Inter to the Rossoneri. The Portuguese forward spoke with Fabrizio Romano for Sport.xyz (via SportFace), delving into various topics, including the influence of Cristiano Ronaldo, his experiences upon joining Milan, and insights into his relationship with teammates:

“I’m proud to play with him for our national team. For us young players, it’s a pleasure to have him in the team. He’s an example for everyone.” Transitioning to his arrival at AC Milan and his rapport with the fans, Leao acknowledged his initial struggles: “When I arrived, my first few matches didn’t live up to my abilities, but I still felt the support. Initially, the coach (Giampaolo) didn’t give me much playing time, which was tough for me. But I knew coming to Milan meant competing with many talented players. I was young; I focused on staying concentrated, improving, and learning every day, waiting for my chance. In my mind, I thought they knew what I could do, but I needed to do more because Milan is a historic club, having won numerous Champions League titles and boasting many legendary players. I had to prove not only my talent but also my ability to play with passion.”

Leao then discussed the impact of Zlatan Ibrahimovic: “We talk about mentality during training. Things that might seem small, like ball control and passing: after a dribble, I might have attempted a flashy move instead of a simple play, but I didn’t. He helped me become more focused in front of goal, to shoot well. He helped me with two things: mentality and concentration. He knew that if I stayed focused during the game, I would make a huge difference. Sometimes I was nervous during matches, but he wasn’t and kept talking to me, telling me to stay focused, to keep going, and that the goal would come. A teammate like him, saying those things, made me feel comfortable.”

Finally, the Portuguese forward shared an anecdote about Joao Cancelo: “I was with the national team, talking to him. He played for Inter Milan and told me, ‘I like Milan, it’s a great club. When I played at their stadium, I heard the fans, and as a kid, I really liked them as a team.’ So, I told him to come. He said it would be difficult; he was at Manchester City, but I tried. The new era at Milan is based on young players with great talent, so Cancelo would have been perfect.”


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