In an interview with football and fashion media outlet Gaffer, Rafael Leão (23) revealed which footballers he idolised most as a kid.
“100%, Ronaldinho and Cristiano Ronaldo. They’re players that I followed and tried to copy when I was growing up. I learned how to do the things I do today, dribbling…by watching Youtube videos of them. They’re both big idols of mine and I’d love to have a career similar to theirs,” he said.
The inspiration makes sense as, despite his towering height, Leão’s playing style sees him elusive on the left side of the pitch, just like his idols. He ceaselessly uses his strength to barge past defenders, just as Ronaldo does, and slithers himself into the box for a shot or an assist, just as Ronaldinho used to do.
The AC Milan winger reminisced about his upbringing in the city of Almada, emphasising a crucial chapter of his life in the Sporting Clube de Portugal academy.
“Sporting is one of the best academies in the world, if not the best, since it’s trained two Ballon d’Or winners. It’s an honour that fills me with great pride to have come through the ranks there, they opened the doors for me to the footballing world and I’m very grateful for them. It’s definitely a club that I will remember and take with me forever.”
Having joined Sporting’s academy in 2012, Leão made his first team debut in 2018, scoring two and assisting one in five games.
After a violent attack on the first team’s training ground in May of 2018, Leão terminated his Sporting contract, resulting in an ongoing legal battle over how Sporting would be compensated for their loss of the talent.
This quote comes after a massive settlement between LOSC Lille, AC Milan, Leão, and Sporting that would see the five year legal battle finally come to a close, further showing no bad blood between the Portuguese international and the Lisbon club.
Leão has made a total of 44 appearances accompanied by 26 goal contributions for AC Milan this season.
Andrew Abrantes | Get Football