OPINION | Why Portugal should start Rafael Leão

Portugal have won both of their World Cup matches, but something’s missing in attack. Rafael Leão could be the final piece of the puzzle.

AC Milan won their first Serie A title since 2011 last season, and attacker Rafael Leão was at the core of that achievement and the 23-year-old was named MVP for the 2021/22 season. He has continued to be vital for Milan, as they defend their first League title in 11 years. This season, Leão has scored six goals and added four in 14 Serie A fixtures. Partly due to his contributions, Milan are currently in second spot behind Napoli.

Fan favourite Leão has the ability to grab his team by its collective collar and drag them forward, as shown by two goals and an assist in the Derby della Madonnina against Inter. The Portuguese forward is also able to make an instant impact as a sub and only needed three minutes to find the net after coming on against Ghana in Qatar.

Even though Portugal have won both of their matches at the World Cup so far, they could use someone with the qualities of Leão in attack. With Bruno Fernandes, João Félix and Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal’s attack is often a little too static and predictable but Leão could trouble any defence with his speed, agility, dribbling and explosiveness. As the tournament progresses and the opponents get tougher, Portugal will need more firepower.

But who should he replace? Against Uruguay, the attack was the one mentioned above. Bruno Fernandes is having a great tournament, with two goals and two assists already. Cristiano Ronaldo is Cristiano Ronaldo – Fernando Santos won’t bench him. Even though he scored against Ghana, Félix hasn’t had the best of tournaments. It seems like that’s the player Leão would replace.

Leão has something the Portugal attack lacks – explosiveness and the ability to beat his man and either score or assist. He deserves at least a meaningful opportunity to showcase the effect he could have on the team. Portugal has already qualified for the knock-out stages, so why not start the 23-year-old against South Korea? Leão certainly has done everything to deserve a chance.

Jurre van Wanrooij | GWCFN

More European Football News