Rafael Leão

Rafael Alexandre Conceição Leão (Portuguese pronunciation: [ʁafaˈɛɫ ˈljɐ̃w̃]; born 10 June 1999) is a Portuguese professional footballer who plays for Italian club A.C. Milan as a forward.

Rafael Leão
Leão in February 2018
Personal information
Full name Rafael Alexandre Conceição Leão[1]
Date of birth (1999-06-10) 10 June 1999 (age 21)[1]
Place of birth Almada, Portugal[1]
Height 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)[1]
Position(s) Forward
Club information
Current team
Number 17
Youth career
2006–2007 Amora
2007–2008 Foot 21
2008–2017 Sporting CP
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2017 Sporting CP B 12 (7)
2018 Sporting CP 3 (1)
2018–2019 Lille 24 (8)
2019– Milan 56 (12)
National team
2015 Portugal U16 10 (2)
2015–2016 Portugal U17 11 (4)
2016–2017 Portugal U19 17 (5)
2017–2019 Portugal U20 8 (2)
2017– Portugal U21 12 (1)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 19:12, 21 April 2021 (UTC)
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 18 November 2020

Club career


Born in Almada, Setúbal District of Angolan descent, Leão joined Sporting CP's youth system at the age of 9 after a brief spell in Amora FC.[2][3] 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 S.C. Braga B.[4]

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 C.D. Feirense.[5][6] 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 1–2 away loss to FC Porto[7]– in the process, he became the club's youngest-ever scorer against that opposition.[8]

On 14 June 2018, Leão unilaterally terminated his contract at the Estádio José Alvalade,[9] citing an incident where players and staff had been attacked by fans during training.[10]


On 8 August 2018, Leão joined French club Lille OSC on a free transfer, signing a five-year deal.[11] He scored his first Ligue 1 goal in only his second appearance, playing 67 minutes and helping the hosts beat Stade Malherbe Caen 1–0.[12]

During his spell, Leão shared teams with compatriots José Fonte, Rui Fonte, Edgar Ié and Xeka.[13]


On 1 August 2019, Leão signed a five-year contract at A.C. Milan.[14] He made his Serie A debut 24 days later, as a 75th-minute substitute for Samu Castillejo in a 1–0 away defeat to Udinese Calcio,[15] and scored his first goal as a late consolation in a 3–1 home loss to ACF Fiorentina on 29 September.[16]

Leão scored the fastest goal in the history of the Serie A on 20 December 2020, away against U.S. Sassuolo Calcio after just six seconds; the match eventually ended 2–1 for his team.[17]

International career

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.[18][19] 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.[20]

Style of play

Leão drew comparisons to French player Kylian Mbappé, being called the 'Portuguese Mbappe'.[10] 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.[21] Jesus, who later coached him in the first team, said that he reminded him of former club striker Rui Jordão.[22]

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.[23]

Personal life

In September 2020, Leão tested positive for COVID-19.[24]

Career statistics


As of match played 21 April 2021[25]
Club Season League Cup Continental Other Total
Sporting CP B 2016–17 LigaPro 1111
2017–18 LigaPro 116116
Total 127127
Sporting CP 2017–18 Primeira Liga 31002[lower-alpha 1]152
Lille 2018–19 Ligue 1 2482[lower-alpha 2]0268
Milan 2019–20 Serie A 31620336
2020–21 Serie A 256207[lower-alpha 1]1357
Total 561240816813
Career total 9528601020011130
  1. Appearances in UEFA Europa League
  2. Appearances in Coupe de France


  1. "Rafael Leão" (in Portuguese). Mais Futebol. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  2. "Poderá Rafael Leão vir a ser a nova estrela do Sporting?" [Can Rafael Leão be Sporting's next star?]. Record (in Portuguese). 13 February 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  3. "RAFAEL LEÃO »» Do futebol de rua nas Paivas à sua passagem pelo Amora" [RAFAEL LEÃO »» From street football at the Paivas to Amora spell]. Jornal de Desporto (in Portuguese). 6 March 2018. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  4. "COMENTÁRIO: Sporting B empata com Braga B e impede terceiro lugar aos minhotos" [COMMENT: Sporting B draw with Braga B and prevent minhotos from finishing third]. Diário de Notícias (in Portuguese). 21 May 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  5. Marques Simões, Rui (11 February 2018). "Leões vencem Feirense com dois golos tardios" [Lions beat Feirense with two late goals]. Diário de Notícias (in Portuguese). Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  6. ""Rafael Leão tremia por todo o lado"" [«Rafael Leão was shaking all over the place»]. A Bola (in Portuguese). 11 February 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  7. Tavares Silva, Hugo (2 March 2018). "A lei de Brahimi" [Brahimi's law] (in Portuguese). TSF. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  8. "Sporting não venceu o clássico, mas Rafael Leão fez história" [Sporting did not win classic, but Rafael Leão made history] (in Portuguese). SAPO. 3 March 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  9. Rico, Carolina (14 June 2018). "Rafael Leão rescinde contrato com o Sporting. É o nono" [Rafael Leão terminates contract with Sporting. Going nine] (in Portuguese). TSF. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  10. "Rafael Leao: The Lille forward dubbed the 'Portuguese Mbappe'". BBC Sport. 7 February 2019. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  11. "Rafael Leão au LOSC" [Rafael Leão to LOSC] (Press release) (in French). Lille OSC. 8 August 2018. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  12. Lafont, Romain (28 October 2018). "Leao rugit, Lille déroule" [Leao roars (pun on player's name, "Lion" in Portuguese), Lille unwind]. L'Équipe (in French). Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  13. "Un renfort offensif nommé Rui Fonte" [An attacking addition called Rui Fonte] (in French). Lille OSC. 1 September 2018. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  14. "Official statement: Rafael Leão". A.C. Milan. 1 August 2019. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  15. "AC Milan come up short against Udinese". A.C. Milan. 25 August 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  16. "AC Milan 1–3 Fiorentina". BBC Sport. 29 September 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  17. "Leao scores fastest goal in Serie A history". Football Italia. 20 December 2020. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  18. Andrade, David (10 November 2017). "Portugal empata na Roménia e complica apuramento" [Portugal draw in Romania and make qualification harder]. Público (in Portuguese). Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  19. "Roménia S21 1–1 Portugal S21" [Romania U21 1–1 Portugal U21] (in Portuguese). SAPO. 10 November 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  20. "Portugal vence Bielorrússia e sobe à liderança do Grupo 7" [Portugal defeat Belarus and climb to first in Group 7]. Record (in Portuguese). 10 September 2019. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  21. "'Better than Cristiano Ronaldo' – Rafael Leao sensational form no surprise to former coach". Goal. 10 February 2019. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  22. "Jorge Jesus compara Rafael Leão a Jordão e faz revelação: "Nos treinos dá cabo do Piccini e do Coates"" [Jorge Jesus compares Rafael Leão to Jordão and makes revelation: "He kills Piccini and Coates in training"] (in Portuguese). SAPO. 12 February 2018. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  23. Del Vecchio, Manuel (25 July 2020). "Pioli su Leao: "Ha un potenziale incredibile. Oggi è entrato bene ma può fare di più"" [Pioli on Leao: "He has an incredible potential. He came on well today but he can do better"] (in Italian). Milan News. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  24. "Milan, Leao positivo al coronavirus: è in quarantena" [Milan, Leao positive for Coronavirus: he is in quarantine] (in Italian). Sky TG24. 15 September 2020. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  25. Rafael Leão at Soccerway