Paolo Maldini admits AC Milan missed Rafael Leao extension deadline

Tom Gott
Chelsea are chasing Leao
Chelsea are chasing Leao / Claudia Greco/GettyImages

AC Milan technical director Paolo Maldini has admitted that renewing the in-demand Rafael Leao's contract before he left for the World Cup was 'not possible'.

Milan officials had publicly voiced their optimism at renewing Leao's deal before the Serie A season was put on hold but, as 90min revealed earlier this week, the Chelsea target left for the World Cup without reaching an agreement.

Sources have confirmed that Milan are prepared to make Leao the highest earner in Serie A to fend off interest from Chelsea, but even such an offer has yet to yield any results for the Rossoneri.

“We’ve been talking about this [contract extension] for months, if not years,” Maldini told Sky Sport Italia.

“We’ll meet at the right moment and make a decision. The idea was to close [the deal] before the World Cup, especially with players involved in the competition, Leao in this case. It was not possible."

Chelsea are monitoring Leao's contract negotiations with an incredibly keen eye. The Blues are understood to be confident that they will be able to lure Leao, whose current deal has 18 months left to run, to Stamford Bridge in 2023.

Co-owner Todd Boehly had even been prepared to make a bid for Leao in January but Milan have made it abundantly clear that they will not entertain the 23-year-old's departure midway through the season.