The Portuguese is experiencing a moment of grace, after having been without goals at San Siro for a long time: “We’re having an incredible season in the Champions League, but today it was important to score”
Rafael Leao’s game is in two flashes in the first half, barely ten minutes apart. The first: Rafa defends the ball on the left in midfield, keeps Blin at bay with his body and changes the game. Lateral foul ball. At this point the Portuguese rolls his eyes, gets furious and lights up, because ten minutes later he scores with a header and changes the game. Leao is like that. In the first two years these moments were more frequent, but since last season there have been much less, even if every now and then he remembers the old days when he was receiving rebukes. This time he learned to change his pace on his own. For Milan, for Pioli and for the renewal, because the will of both is to continue with the Rossoneri. “Today I had to score – he said after the match -, I thought about it before. Scoring at the San Siro is always nice. We do our own, we don’t look at others. I always try to do what I did today, even if I don’t assist.” Now the goal is to finish in the top four: “We’re having an incredible season in the Champions League. It was important to win today.”
After three shady months without goals, Rafa is back to his level. Napoli knows something about it. Today’s descent against Lecce recalled the solo against Maradona in the Champions League, which in turn brought to mind the duet between Gullit and Van Basten in 1988. He took the ball forty meters from goal, stretched it out and then he choked the left. Pioli gave him the standing ovation and he greeted the curve, more and more in love with 17 with braids, the talent that needs a little jolt to shake off that thread of pressure that feels less and less. And it’s a big step towards becoming the champion everyone wishes for. Indeed, after scoring the first goal, Rafa pointed to his head, as if he wanted to convey concentration. As if he meant “now let’s close ranks”. Leao has reached 12 goals in the league, 13 for the season. Only last year he signed more (14). And Lecce is good for him, it’s his favorite victim: he stung the Giallorossi four times, the first of 2020. Always with his head. “The coach always encourages me to train more to throw her in even like this: he says that with my body I have to score more goals with my head”. In his career he has only scored in this way against Salento and Oleiros, a team he faced in the third round of the Portuguese cup in 2017.
How much praise
Pioli praised him, but also made a note: “He needs to close more at the far post. There are few right-backs who can handle him, he has incredible physical potential, but he needs to be more inside the box and attack the far post.” In the press room they asked him if the Portuguese can climb the Ballon d’Or rankings. Pioli dribbled with style. “Three months ago everything had to be thrown away. Rafa is strong, and to do well he needs strong players, like Theo or Maignan. Let’s think about the match against Roma”. Ball in the stands, no frills, before theendorsement di Baroni, also bewitched by Rafael despite the two goals conceded: “Milan are right to keep him close, he’s the classic player you would like to have in your team. He is having an extraordinary season ”. Rafa’s smile as he runs with his ball and chain was born thanks to Pioli, the first to tell him clearly that he should have had more fun. He today he does, and he knows how to turn himself back on.
April 23, 2023 (change April 23, 2023 | 21:52)
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