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Rafael Leão Has Turned A Simple Stepover Into The Game's Most Devastating Move

Another match, another $10 million added to Rafael Leão's constantly rising market value.

On Wednesday in AC Milan's Champions League group stage encounter with Dinamo Zagreb at the San Siro, Leão was again the Rossoneri's catalyst in a 3-1 victory. The 23-year-old drew the foul that led to Olivier Giroud's opener from the spot, and then he burst past his marker and clipped a cross into the area that was met by Alexis Saelemaekers for Milan's second.

How did Leão engineer the space for the cross on his assist? With an explosive single stepover — an action that Leão has harnessed into the most devastating move across Europe.

Defenders simply have no answer for Leão at the moment. Get close and stay physical? The 6-2 Portuguese international is stronger than any fullback. He'll hold them off with ease, turn and leave them buried in his wake. Stand off and attempt to contain him? That's when Leão squares up his marker, hits the stepover and immediately knows whether to drop the shoulder and sprint for the touchline, or to move inside and cause all sorts of issues for the heart of the defense. 

Here's Leão's 2022-23 stepover at its best. 

After a breakthrough season that landed Leão the 2021-22 Serie A MVP and Milan the Scudetto, he's off to an even better start this campaign with three goals and three assists in six league appearances to go with two assists in two UCL games.

His presence is transformative for Milan's attack, but is it a case of "enjoy him while you can" at the San Siro?

Leão's current deal runs through the 2023-24 season, but according to Forbes, he's on a remarkably small salary of $1.5 million (what Michael Bradley makes at Toronto FC). However, he has the right agent to get a bumper new deal — Cristiano Ronaldo BFF Jorge Mendes — and Leão is reportedly looking for $7 million per year.

The big spenders in England and Spain (and PSG) are circling, and there's no telling where his valuation will be if he continues this form for Milan and has a big World Cup for Portugal. Expect both those things to happen.

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