Barcelona are reportedly hoping to beat Chelsea to the signature of AC Milan attacker Rafael Leao.
The Portugal international is believed to have admirers across Europe after recording 11 goals and 10 assists in 34 Serie A matches in the 2021-22 season, as Milan won the title.
Leao has kept up his strong form for Stefano Pioli‘s side in the 2022-23 season, amassing seven goals and nine assists from 20 games before the World Cup break.
The 23-year-old was handed an expected call-up to the Portugal team for the 2022 World Cup, as Fernando Santos‘s side prepare to meet Ghana, South Korea and Uruguay in Group H.
Leao is only under contract at San Siro until 2024, with the Rossoneri struggling to agree an extension on the existing terms he signed upon his arrival from Lille in 2019.
Chelsea reportedly failed with a late approach for Leao in the summer transfer window, and the Blues are expected to reignite their interest in the winger in 2023.
However, Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona are also keeping a close eye on the former Sporting Lisbon man and will monitor his performances at the 2022 World Cup.
The report states that Leao will be one of several players whom Xavi will be keeping tabs on over the winter, with fellow attackers Marco Asensio and Youssoufa Moukoko also among them.
As well as Barcelona, Real Madrid are also said to be plotting a swoop for Leao, who has a total of 34 goals and 30 assists to boast from 135 games for Milan in all tournaments.
AC Milan director Paolo Maldini has previously insisted that he intends to agree a new contract with Leao, but a financial dispute with former club Sporting is thought to be presenting a roadblock in negotiations.
Nevertheless, Leao’s father Antonio Leao has hinted that the attacker is keen to sign a new deal at San Siro, telling Record: “We are working on it [a new contract].
“Until the deadline of 2024 we will take care of everything, without necessarily Chelsea, Barcelona or Real Madrid. He loves being in Italy. He has a predilection for Italians, the one the Portuguese do not have for him.
“”He won the award for best player of the last Serie A not because he was beautiful, but simply… because he is the best.”
Leao will hope to force his way into the Portugal XI when they begin their World Cup 2022 campaign against Ghana on Thursday.