Chelsea made an informal approach for AC Milan star Rafael Leao during the summer transfer window but didn’t present an official bid, Rossoneri director Paolo Maldini has revealed.
The Portugal international, who was named Serie A MVP last season after firing Milan to their first title in 11 years, was linked with a Stamford Bridge move.
However, the Italian champions reportedly value him at around €150 million (£129m).
That price tag even put off Chelsea, who were the biggest spenders in Europe over the summer, forking out more than £250m on new players.
“Chelsea’s officially written offer did not arrive but on an informal level it did. Of course, it was rejected,” Maldini told Sport Mediaset ahead of Milan’s Champions League win over Dinamo Zagreb.
Leao enjoyed a breakthrough season with Stefano Pioli’s side last term, scoring 11 goals and providing 10 assists in 34 Serie A games.
The 23-year-old has kicked off this season where he left off, putting in a remarkable display against title rivals Inter by scoring two goals and setting another up in a thrilling 3-2 Milan derby victory.
Although Milan managed to keep hold of their rising star, Maldini and the rest of the club hierarchy will have one eye on the future, as Leao’s contract runs out in 2024.
The Rossoneri and Italy legend is remaining calm, and claimed that staying at San Siro is in the best interest of both club and player.
"The renewal is an issue that we faced many months ago,” Maldini said.
“Rafa knows that to become an even stronger player, the best solution is to stay with us, because we’re a young squad that is growing."
He added: “We have both the intention and the desire to grow with him and do great things with him.”
Leao, who has three goals and six assists in eight games in all competitions so far this season, is valued at £63m by Transfermarkt.
More Chelsea stories
Chelsea apparently want two new forwards. Callum Hudson-Odoi has left for Leverkusen on loan, while Crystal Palace lynchpin Wilf Zaha and AC Milan star Rafael Leao have been touted for spectacular moves. The Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang deal has been said to be “close” for days.
Elsewhere, Chelsea have had a breakthrough in signing Wesley Fofana, while one shock swoop for Harry Maguire has been rumoured.
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Alasdair Mackenzie is a freelance journalist based in Rome, and a FourFourTwo contributor since 2015. When not pulling on the FFT shirt, he can be found at Reuters, The Times and the i. An Italophile since growing up on a diet of Football Italia on Channel 4, he now counts himself among thousands of fans sharing a passion for Ross County and Lazio.