Rafael Alexandre da Conceição Leão (born 10 June 1999) is a Portuguese professional footballer who plays as a forward for Serie A club AC Milan and the Portugal national team.
Graduating from Sporting CP youth system, Leão made his first-team debut in 2018, winning the 2017–18 Taça da Liga, before unilaterally terminating his contract, following an incident within the club. Shortly after, he joined for Ligue 1 side Lille on a free transfer. AC Milan signed him in 2019 for a reported fee of €23 million. In his third season at the club, he helped the team win the 2021–22 Serie A, which ended the club’s 11-year league title drought. He was also voted Serie A Most Valuable Player.
Leão is a former Portugal youth international, representing his country at various youth levels, being part of the under-17 team that won the 2016 European Championship. He made his senior international debut in 2021.
Leão is regarded as a highly skillful and technical player, capable of playing on either flank, due to his versatility. Not only is he quite tall and lean, he has a great burst and top-end speed to match, making him a very dynamic forward. Having developed as a centre-forward at youth level, he offers a dynamic presence in the forward line. He stretches and disrupts defences with his movements, with and without the ball. Leão is a prolific and proficient dribbler; he drives powerfully from deep then beats players in one-on-one situations around the box with skill and changes of speed and he is also capable of creating chances and providing assists for teammates from the left due to his vision. Inside the penalty area, he gets into good positions off dribbles and movement, being able to play as a striker, due to his composure, and eye for goal. During his managerial spell at Milan, Stefano Pioli deployed Leão as a supporting striker or a winger on either side of the pitch, rather than an out-and-out striker.
Leão drew comparisons to French player Kylian Mbappé, being called the ‘Portuguese Mbappe’. Tiago Fernandes, who worked with him at the Sporting youth academy, told French newspaper L’Équipe that in his opinion the player was better than Cristiano Ronaldo at the same stage. Jesus, who later coached him in the first team, said that he reminded him of former club striker Rui Jordão. Leão’s coach at Milan, Stefano Pioli and Italian manager Fabio Capello, compared him to former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry.
Early Life and Career
Born in Almada, Setúbal District, Portugal to Angolan parents, Leão joined Sporting CP’s youth system at the age of 9 after a brief spell in Amora. On 21 May 2017, still a junior, he made his senior debut with the reserves, coming on as a second-half substitute and scoring in a 1–1 away draw against Braga B.
Courtesy of manager Jorge Jesus, Leão first appeared in the Primeira Liga with the first team on 11 February 2018, replacing Bryan Ruiz for the last 21 minutes of the 2–0 home win over Feirense. On 2 March, having taken the place of injured Seydou Doumbia late into the first half, he equalised for the visitors a few minutes after taking the pitch but in a 2–1 away loss to Porto – in the process, he became the club’s youngest-ever scorer against that opposition.
On 14 June 2018, Leão unilaterally terminated his contract at the Estádio José Alvalade, citing an incident where players and staff had been attacked by fans during training.
On 8 August 2018, Leão joined French club Lille on a free transfer, signing a five-year deal. Sporting CP would later dispute Lille’s deal to sign the player, deeming the transfer “unacceptable”, filling a complaint with FIFA and claiming the €45 million of his release clause. At the beginning of September 2018, Leão wanted to terminate his contract with the club, after his transfer was not approved by the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP), due to sanctions imposed by the Direction Nationale du Contrôle de Gestion (DNCG), following Lille’s financial difficulties. After being convinced by his representative to stay at Lille, the DNCG validated Lille’s pending contracts, including the contract of Leão.
Leão made his competitive debut on 30 September 2018, replacing Loïc Rémy in the 78th minute, in a 3–0 victory over Olympique de Marseille. He scored his first Ligue 1 goal in only his second appearance, playing 67 minutes and helping the hosts defeat Caen in a 1–0 victory. During his spell, Leão scored eight goals in 26 competitive games, shared teams with compatriots José Fonte, Rui Fonte, Edgar Ié and Xeka and finished with his teammates as runners-up in a brilliant 2018-19 Ligue 1 season.
On 1 August 2019, Leão signed a five-year contract at A.C. Milan for a fee of €23 million. He made his Serie A debut on 25 August, replacing Samu Castillejo in 75th-minute in a 1–0 away defeat to Udinese. Leão scored his first goal of the club, as a late consolation in a 1–3 home loss to Fiorentina on 29 September. On 19 March 2020, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) condemned Leão to pay €16.5 million to Sporting CP for his unilateral breach of contract. On 7 July 2020, Leão scored a goal against league-leaders Juventus, to help Milan to a 4–2 win, after being down by two goals. At the end of the season, he had scored six goals in 31 league matches, helping Milan to a sixth-place finish and a 10-match unbeaten streak.
At the beginning of the following season, on 4 October 2020, Leão scored a brace in a 3–0 home victory at San Siro against Spezia. On 29 October, he scored his first goal in European competitions, in a 3–0 home group stage victory in the UEFA Europa League against Sparta Prague. He scored the fastest goal in the history of Serie A and in Europe’s big five leagues, after six seconds on 20 December at Sassuolo; the match ended 2–1 for his team.
On 3 January 2021, he scored the second goal against Benevento in eventual 2–0 away win, becoming the second youngest foreign player (21 years and 207 days) to score more than ten goals for Milan in Serie A, after Alexandre Pato (19 years and 19 days).
At the start of the 2021–22 season, on 29 August 2021, Leão scored the first goal from a shot outside the box, in a 4–1 home victory against Cagliari at San Siro. On 15 September, on in his UEFA Champions League debut, he provided an assist for Ante Rebić in a 3–2 away defeat to Liverpool; and on 28 September, he scored his first goal in the competition in a 2–1 home loss against Atlético Madrid.
On 9 February 2022, Leão opened the score sheet against Lazio and assisted the second goal, being directly involved in 14 goals in the season, surpassing his record during his career in Europe’s the top 5 leagues. Four days later, in his 100th appearance for Milan, he scored the only goal in 1–0 win against Sampdoria, which put Milan in the top of the league table. On 25 February, he scored his eighth league goal of the season against Udinese, in eventual 1–1 draw, becoming in the process the second player to score in each of the seven days of a week in Serie A with AC Milan, after Andriy Shevchenko.
On 1 May, Leão scored the winner in a 1–0 win against Fiorentina, becoming the youngest Portuguese to score at least 10 goals in single Serie A campaign. Seven days later, Leão’s two assists to Sandro Tonali helped his team come from behind to defeat Hellas Verona 3–1 away from home, to help his side overtake rivals Inter at the top of the Serie A table. On 22 May, he provided a hat-trick of assists for the first time in his career as Milan beat Sassuolo 3–0 away from home to win their first Serie A title in eleven years. At the end of the season, Leão was awarded the Serie A MVP award for the 2021–22 season, finishing the campaign with 11 goals and 10 assists.
With the Portugal under-17s, Leão took participated in the 2016 UEFA European Under-17 Championship. In this competition, he played five out of six matches, not playing against the Netherlands in the semifinals. In the finals against Spain, Leão replaced Domingos Quina in the 79th minute; Portugal went on to win the competition for the sixth time, following a 5–4 penalty shoot-out victory after a 1–1 draw in extra-time.
With the under-19s, Leão participated in the 2017 UEFA European Under-19 Championship, helping finishing as runner-up, after losing in the final to England. For his performances throughout the competition, he was named in the “Team of the Tournament”. At the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland he played all three games and scored the only goal in a 1–1 draw against South Africa, though his side did not advance from the group.
On 10 November 2017, aged only 18, Leão won his first cap for the Portugal under-21 side, playing 31 minutes in a 1–1 away draw against Romania for the 2019 UEFA European Championship qualifiers. He scored his first goal at that level on 10 September 2019, in a 2–0 victory in Belarus for the 2021 European Championship qualification campaign. In March 2021, Leão took part in the 2021 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, helping Portugal finish as runners-up, after losing in the final 1–0 to Germany.
On 5 October 2021, Leão was called up to the senior team for the first time, as a replacement for the injured Rafa Silva. Four days later, he made his international debut, replacing Cristiano Ronaldo at half-time and providing the assist for André Silva’s goal in a 3–0 friendly defeat of Qatar.
Rafael Leão is currently single and not in any relationship for now. Rafael Leão is not married.
Parents and Family
His father is from Angola while his mother is from Sao-Tomé-Et-Principe. They both met as migrants in Portugal and decided to form a family.
His father’s name is Antonio Leão.
The Almada native spent his childhood years with lots of siblings who remain the best link to his past.
Rafael Leao had 3 brothers whose names are yet to be known, and he also has 3 sisters named Paulo, Bianca and Nadia.
Family and Life Story
One of the first Top Facts about Rafael Leao you should know is that he was given a name after his birth, which means Lion-Heart.
One of the six children (four brothers and twin sisters) born from the union between his mother and father is the footballer who is pictured above.
The native of Almada spent his childhood with a lot of siblings who remained the best link to his past.
Starting from his sisters are Paulo and Bianca Leao (twins). Another female Rafael’s sibling is Nadia Leao who is less than 10 at the time of writing his Bio.
The forward had spent his childhood in Almada Town. It is on the banks of the Tagus, across from Lisbon.
Another one of the Top Facts about Rafael Leao is that the AC Milan forward lived a tough childhood alongside his brothers, one that saw them making plenty of sacrifices.
Rafael was different from all his siblings, as his parents gave him a patronymic name. Have you realized that Leao means “lion”? The footballer was destined to live a life of supremacy and strength.
He bears the nickname Rafblinks. Rafael was born in the city of Almada, Portugal, on the 10th day of June 1999 to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Conceicao Leao.
Even though the parents of the forward were immigrants, they were far from being poor, but not wealthy either.
Even so, Leao has a near-bourgeois upbringing and is from a very humble family background.
His parents still go to work like the ordinary people in Lisbon, even as a millionaire footballer.
Rafael Leao’s mother is a hairdresser and his father is a civil servant.
The sharpshooter, digging out the past of his poor background, once gave fans a peek of the building where he grew up in Portugal.
With this photo, the AC Milan star acknowledges his family’s lack.
One of the Top Facts about Rafael Leao is that he also vowed that he would use his football money to repair this house.
Yeah, we know that he’s from Portugal. The truth is, the football star has ancestral roots in Africa.
Simply put, the parents of Rafael Leao come from Africa, from different countries.
His father was from Angola, while his mother was from Sao-Tome-Et-Principe.
They both met in Portugal as migrants and chose to build a family.
He grew up in the town of Almada and, from a very young age, became obsessed with soccer.
In reality, Leao’s native town’s fields and riverbanks treasure his childhood memories of football.
The AC Milan forward once said, recalling what he considers history;
“WHEN I WAS YOUNGER, I USED TO PLAY BALL EVERY DAY. SOMETIMES I DIDN’T EVEN GET TO LUNCH OR SNACK FROM MY PARENTS.
I ONLY CAME HOME AT DINNER TIME WITH DIRTY SHORTS. IN FACT, THE NEW SNEAKERS MY FATHER HAD BOUGHT WERE ALREADY BEING USED”
One of the
Top Facts about Rafael Leao
is that Like Cristiano Ronaldo, whenever he lost games, Rafael Leao cried.
His friends never named him Cry Baby though. He was a genuinely emotional boy, one who was worried about not losing matches.
Originally, the footballer’s parents advised him to concentrate solely on academics.
He was successful at reconciling the two, Rafael told them.
Back then, the only happiness was winning football games and not reading books.
Leao went to elementary school, but was forced to leave so that he could fulfill a dream. During an interview, in his words;
“I COULDN’T KEEP FOCUSED ON EDUCATION BECAUSE I WAS FOLLOWING A DREAM. IN THE MIDDLE OF SOME CLASSES I HAD TO GO OUT FOR TRAINING. I DIDN’T HAVE THE SCHOOLING LIFE THAT MOST HAD.”
One of the Top Facts about Rafael Leao is that as his brothers and sisters went to school back then, Rafael would stay at his family’s home so that he could prepare for training.
He would rest during Sundays to be physically strong for the week.
Rafael began playing the game with friends at the bottom of his building.
Net Worth and Salary
Rafael Leão’s net worth as of 2022 is estimated at around $4.5 million – $7 million.
Rafael Leão earns around 4.5 million euros per season playing for AC Milan.