AC Milan ready to make Rafael Leao highest-paid player in Serie A to fend off Chelsea

AC Milan are fighting to keep Leao
AC Milan are fighting to keep Leao / Ciancaphoto Studio/GettyImages

AC Milan are looking to convince Rafael Leao to continue his career at San Siro by offering him a new contract which would make him Serie A's top earner, 90min understands.

Chelsea held informal talks with Milan over Leao's services during the summer and, although they were swiftly knocked back, the Blues have retained their interest in the 23-year-old whose current deal with the Rossoneri runs until 2024.

Milan have long voiced their determination to keep Leao, who was named Serie A Player of the Season last year, with director Daniele Massaro stressing on Monday: "We’re confident about reaching an agreement with Leao and extending his contract. We’ll try to find a solution to proceed with Rafa for a long time."

Sources have confirmed to 90min that Milan's plan to persuade Leao to stay is to make him the highest-paid player in Serie A, offering a salary which would eclipse that earned by Juventus stars like Dusan Vlahovic, Adrien Rabiot and Paul Pogba.

Leao's father is understood to be leading the talks for the 23-year-old in Milan, with Paolo Maldini recently confirming the club's intention to renew before he leaves for the World Cup with Portugal.

"We would like to do it before the World Cup," Maldini said. "Indeed, we wanted to do it a year and six months ago. Then there must be the conditions to do it. The idea is to do it before the World Cup break. We’ll see what happens.“

Leao's future has been complicated by a debt owed to former employers Sporting CP, to whom the forward was ordered to pay close to €20m after he was found to have unfairly terminated his contract to join Lille in 2018. Milan have nothing to do with the legal battle and do not owe Sporting any money of their own.

That debt must be paid out of Leao's own pockets, so the impact of a new-and-improved salary is obvious.

While Chelsea have the financial power needed to exceed Milan's proposal to Leao, the Rossoneri believe that a new long-term contract will be enough to scare off all suitors for the time being, with club officials also working to convince the Portugal star that his career will develop best in Italy.