MILAN (AP) — AC Milan will likely be even more eager to extend Rafael Leão’s contract after the Portugal forward again starred in a Rossoneri win.
Leão earned a penalty — converted by Olivier Giroud — and set up Milan’s second for Alexis Saelemaekers to help his team beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday. Tommaso Pobega all but sealed the result 13 minutes from time.
The 23-year-old Leão was one of the stars of Milan’s title-winning team last season. He has also scored three goals in six Serie A matches this season and will be sorely missed when Milan hosts Napoli as he is suspended for this weekend’s match.
“There’s not much difference between Italian matches and the Champions League,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said. “Now we’re facing Napoli, which is a top team like Chelsea, we will have to find solutions in attack seeing as Leão is suspended.
“If we play at our top level we can win all the matches in all the competitions.”
Milan is already in talks to extend Leão’s contract, which expires in 2024. Chelsea, which is also in Milan’s Champions League group, is one of the clubs interested in him.
“We’ve already started talking with him about renewing, many months ago,” Milan director Paolo Maldini said. “Rafa knows that to become even stronger than now the best solution is to stay with us. We are a young squad that is growing.
“He still has to learn a lot of things, but then if he gets to a level that’s better than Milan I think it’s also normal that he’d leave. But we intend to do great things and grow with him. We didn’t receive an official written offer from Chelsea, but there was an informal one and naturally it was rejected.”
It was Milan’s first win in the competition this season after it opened with a 1-1 draw at Salzburg. Dinamo beat Chelsea in their opener. It was also Milan’s first home win in the Champions League in almost nine years, since a win over Celtic was followed by three losses and three draws at San Siro.
Milan dominated on Wednesday but lacked accuracy up front and it took it until the stroke of halftime to break the deadlock after Leão had been brought down by Dinamo defender Josip Šutalo.
Giroud drilled the penalty into the bottom right corner.
And Milan doubled its tally immediately after the break when Leão shimmied his way into the area and crossed for Saelemaekers to head in from close range.
Dinamo pulled one back in the 56th minute, also through a lovely bit of skill, when Bruno Petković released Mislav Oršić with a cheeky back-heeled pass and the Croatia forward slotted the ball into the bottom right corner.
Leão also had a hand in Milan’s third. He picked out Pobega and the Italy midfielder played a one-two with Theo Hernández before firing in off the underside of the crossbar for his first Champions League goal.
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