Milan technical director Paolo Maldini is confident Rafael Leao wants to sign a new contract with the Serie A champions.
Leao joined Milan three years ago in a €35million deal that reportedly also includes a 20 per cent sell-on clause.
He made only 12 Serie A starts in his first season, but that increased to 22 the following campaign and then reached 31 last term as Milan won the title.
Leao played a crucial role in Milan winning a first Scudetto since 2011, scoring 11 goals and setting up another eight – his 19 goal involvements was five more than anyone else for the Rossoneri, while only Theo Hernandez (51) laid on more chances than the Portugal international (45).
The forward’s improved productivity has unsurprisingly seen links to other clubs emerge, with Chelsea reportedly keen on him.
But Maldini is optimistic about extending Leao’s contract beyond its current expiry in 2024, despite a dispute with former club Sporting CP – whom the player reportedly owes €16.5m after unilaterally terminating his contract in 2018 – threatening to cause a distraction.
“Leao has a difficult situation deriving from the move to Lille, this is affecting him a lot and has meant that our dialogues have often changed,” Maldini told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“But Rafa is grateful to us, and I’m interested in what he tells us. He understands that the path in the coming years must be at Milan, he understands it and tells us [this].
“Then there will be a negotiation, but we know that strong players must be paid their worth. If the team continues to grow, Leao will have everything to compete to the fullest.
“But of course, there is no non-transferable [player] for all the teams in the world.”
Maldini was then asked if he was confident some form of arrangement could be found with Leao and Sporting, as the player reportedly wants Milan to help fund any future payments to the Primeira Liga side.
“Yes, with [Leao’s contract], yes [but] we have nothing to do with Sporting.”
Leao has already scored three times in six Serie A appearances this season, with Milan sitting fifth and three points off the summit after seven matches.