Chelsea’s swap deal plan for Leao surfaces with two players involved

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Chelsea failed with a swap deal proposal as they sought to sign Rafael Leao from AC Milan last summer, according to reports. The Portugal international is in the spotlight ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final clash with fierce rivals Inter Milan. But, had things gone differently, he could have been strutting his stuff at Stamford Bridge instead.

According to The Athletic, Chelsea were keen on landing Leao after he’d propelled AC Milan to a first Serie A title since 2011 last season.

It’s claimed that Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali, who were adjusting to their new surroundings in west London, presented Milan with ‘a number of deal structures’ as they looked to land the forward.

Chelsea valued the forward at £88million and then tried to broker a swap deal.

They offered Christian Pulisic, who has blown hot and cold ever since his move from Borussia Dortmund in 2019.

And they also proposed Hakim Ziyech moving to the San Siro as part of the arrangement as well.

But Milan were ‘not convinced’ and believed Chelsea had shown interest too late in the transfer window.

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As a result, they informed the Blues they’d have to pay the 23-year-old’s huge £130million release clause – which would have made him the most-expensive signing in Premier League history.

And Chelsea eventually opted against paying that amount, with Boehly and Eghbali forced to look elsewhere.

The report says that while the club signed Mykhaylo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk in January, that didn’t end their interest in Leao.

They apparently lodged an enquiry in the New Year, which is something the club deny.

Chelsea wanted to know what was happening with Leao and his future but, in the end, missed out for a second time.

The AC Milan star has since proceeded to sign a new contract over in Italy which ties him to the club until June 2028.

His previous deal had been due to expire next summer, which would have meant the Italian titans being forced to sell him this summer to avoid losing him for nothing.

Leao has continued to produce the goods at the San Siro this season, despite Milan failing to retain the Scudetto.

He’s bagged 12 goals from 32 league matches, clocking up eight assists in the process.

And though he’s scored just once in the Champions League, his five assists have helped Milan make the semi-finals of European football’s top-tier club competition.

Leao is likely to start when Milan go up against Inter on Tuesday night (8pm).

And they have it all to do to make the Champions League final for the first time since 2007.

Inter won 2-0 in the first leg with former Premeir League stars Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan both on target.

And Milan go into the game on a low after falling to a 2-0 defeat to Spezia over the weekend.

Speaking after that defeat, manager Stefano Pioli urged his side to improve and put Inter to the sword in order to make the season a success.

“We’re playing a match with which we can make history, we have to believe we can beat Inter if, clearly, we play our football in terms of attention, energy and quality,” he said.

“In the last two games we haven’t been up to par: we can play much better.

“It’s normal that we have the Champions League in mind and it’s normal to be disappointed with the first leg, but we knew how important it was today.

“This match today complicates our future in the league, so it means that we’ll have to play a great game on Tuesday.

“We still have many possibilities to make this season positive. We have to believe we have the chance to beat Inter.”

On Leao returning to the team following an injury, he added: “Today those who weren’t able to play today stayed at home, but they could be there on Tuesday and we’re doing everything to get them back.

“Even today’s changes were in that direction. If I call Leao up, will he play in the starting line-up? Yes, I think so.”

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