Rafael Leao talks about his conflict with Pioli and his connection with Ibrahimovic

"It was a little bit strange initially. I am a person who likes to hear things straight."- Leao said.

by Sead Dedovic
Rafael Leao talks about his conflict with Pioli and his connection with Ibrahimovic
© Marco Luzzani / Getty Images Sport

Rafael Leao is wanted by many big football clubs in Europe. He signed a new contract with AC Milan until 2028 last summer, even though the negotiations were hard. He's set on staying at AC Milan for another season, despite other clubs being interested in him.  AC Milan fans have enormous respect for Leo and are happy that such a player is part of this club. They expect only better things from him in the future. Having such a player is the dream of many European clubs, but AC Milan made a smart move and they knew how to find a player who can become the star of the team. In an interview with Sky Sports, Rafael Leao referred to the contract extension and negotiations.

“They [club directors] knew I wanted to stay at Milan for at least one more year for the project and to show my worth. I knew I had to wait it was just a bureaucratic issue,” -Rafael Leao told Sky Sport Italia.

Leao has been a key player of his team for years. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the relationship between him and the AC Milan coach, Stefano Pioli. Namely, Leao and Pioli are not in such a great relationship. Rafael confirmed that he is the type of player who wants coaches to be direct and say what the main problem is.

"It was a little bit strange initially. I am a person who likes to hear things straight. If you talk to me for 30 minutes, I won’t listen,” he said.

The Portuguese emphasized that Pioli was aggressive in the beginning, and Leao is not someone who likes such things. However, after some time, Pioli realized that he had to have a different approach with the players. Leao is not someone who respects such an approach. The two now have a great relationship. It can be said that Pioli was crucial in making Leao a better footballer and man. The Portuguese footballer wants to return it to the coach in the best possible way.

“His approach was aggressive, and I was quite chilled. He understood and he changed. He would often call me to ask about my family, my playing style and if I needed anything. Our rapport changed then, and we became almost like father and son. When I go on the pitch, I feel responsible for repaying his trust. He deserves the best. He helped me become a better man and gave me more responsibility. He always says the right things things. He doesn’t speak much, but he says the right things.”- he continued.

Rafael Leao was lucky enough to play with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. When you have such a legend by your side, you certainly have the opportunity to learn many things and progress. Leao took advantage of the time spent with Ibrahimovic, and learned a lot from the Swedish footballer. In the moments when Leao would not play a great match, Ibrahimovic was the one who criticized him and demanded that Leao show his full glory. Zlatan is known as someone who has been a leader in the dressing room in many of the teams he has spent his career in.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Rafael Leao
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Rafael Leao© Marco Luzzani / Getty Images Sport

“He didn’t say anything when I played well, but when I didn’t, he would come to me and say: ‘Rafa…’ He put positive pressure on me. Ibra’s tips have helped me, now he will help me even more with his return. It’s an important person for us and it’s fundamental to have him.”

Rafal Leao loves to paint 

Besides football, Leao is someone who is an artist by nature. Music and painting are one of his loves. Of course, football is probably his greatest love, but outside of football, Leao has many other things that he enjoys. He hopes that after the end of his career, he will have the opportunity to show his artistic side and use the time to paint as much as possible. 

“Football and music are my biggest passions because they allow me to express my feelings. On the pitch with a smile and with musing through the words. I tell people never to give up. To enter San Siro with Milan’s shirt is always a joy.

Perhaps one day I will paint pictures. For now, these are the three fields where I like to express myself.”

Many are wondering what the future holds for this great player, and whether he will leave AC Milan in the summer. The fact is that the Italian club has many offers on the table. It will be difficult to turn down a huge amount of money, and many predict that the Portuguese footballers will leave this club and look for happiness elsewhere. Some of the interested clubs are Manchester United, Liverpool and PSG. Leao will have to think carefully about his future and carefully choose a club for himself.

AC Milan fans hope that Leao will show loyalty and stay in the team, but it is really difficult to predict what the future holds and what decisions the Portuguese footballer will make.

Rafael Leao