AC Milan's Rafael Leao leading candidate to replace Kylian Mbappe at PSG
Rafael Leao is on the radar of some of the top European clubs
So, who puts air in his boots? To put it simply, not many players can even come close to taking Kylian Mbappe’s place at PSG. Sadio Mane appeared to be the closest analogue for a while, but he has since been ruled out due to age, fitness, and a decline in relevance.
In the past, Bernardo Silva, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, and Kingsley Coman have all been connected, albeit to differing degrees of seriousness.
Although he is not the same player as Mbappe, he does have certain characteristics. Rafael Leao is a very straightforward winger who plays primarily as an inside forward. The 24-year-old, who was once a creative player, has developed into a goal scorer who can also dish up an assist.
For example, in the 2019–20 season, he scored six goals in Serie A while still a teenager for Milan. In the previous season, he scored fifteen goals and provided eight assists in the league.
Extend his statistics to include all club and national competitions in 2022–2023; he registered 33 direct goal contributions, or nearly a goal and an assist every game.
While those aren’t near to Mbappe’s figures, Leao provides a distinct kind of presence. He is a 6’3 winger who is as at ease bodying defenders off the ball as he is racing around them; he is larger, more powerful, and more aggressive than Mbappe.
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Another advantage is that Leao has some familiarity with Ligue 1. He played for Lille during the 2018–19 season, when as a 19-year-old, he scored eight goals in 16 starts. Most significantly, you would think that, even at 24, there is still a lot of football left, especially with a mastermind like Luis Enrique in charge.
So far this season, Luis Enrique has experimented with his PSG lineup, using a 4-3-3 at times and a 4-2-4 at others, with Mbappe and Randal Kolo Muani functioning as a de facto strike combination.
With Kolo Muani in the centre of the field and Ousmane Dembele on the right, Leao would seem to fit into Luis Enrique’s favoured attacking trio. That is an incredible offensive weapon that is full of speed, ingenuity, and cunning, but it isn’t quite deadly in the end.
The Portugal international might perhaps be better off in a formation more akin to a 4-2-4. Goncalo Ramos has yet to completely realise his potential in a PSG uniform, as Mbappe frequently keeps him out of the starting lineup.
Ramos signed for an initial €65 million (£57 million/$70 million) this summer. Not that he was a Luis Enrique acquisition, and Mbappe is unmovable from this PSG squad. However, there’s a scenario where he aligns with Kolo Muani, Dembele on the left, and Leao on the right.
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