AC Milan under Marco Giampaolo look solid on paper but have started the season very slowly. The attack is lacking bite and this is a worry considering the fact that they acquired Ante Rebic and Rafael Leao during the summer transfer window.
Rafael Leao joined from Ligue 1 club LOSC Lille and cost Milan €28m, but the highly-rated Portugal U21 international has just 99 minutes under his belt. This is despite an impressive showing in preseason and a bright performance off the bench in the dismal 1-0 defeat to Udinese to begin the season.
Reports surfaced about a week ago via Calciomercato who cited La Gazzetta dello Sport that Giampaolo believes Leao – along with Lucas Paqueta – is not yet tactically disciplined enough and as such, he cannot totally trust the Portuguese starlet enough to start every game. It is worth noting that Leao will also have to fight for a starting spot with Ante Rebic, who was brought in on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt where he formed an amazing partnership with Luka Jovic (now at Madrid) and Sebastian Haller (now at West Ham).
Calciomercato also reported recently that Giampaolo is considering making several changes to the lineup following the loss in the Derby della Madonina, as he looks to turn the situation around. Leao’s performance in the Derby della Madonina sparked this decision by Giampaolo to field more new signings in Serie A according to the reports, as the youngster put in a really solid shift.
Ante Rebic is one of the players that many deem should play more for Milan. However, Rebic’s only appearances for Milan since his move have been off the bench in the last two games against both Hellas Verona and Inter. The six-cap Croatia international joined I Rossoneri on deadline day from Eintracht Frankfurt on a two-year loan, with a possibility of a permanent move after the loan ends in 2021, per Calcio e Finanza.
Rebic had a turbulent three-year stint in the Serie A with Fiorentina before moving to Germany in 2016, but he saw his career revived at Eintracht Frankfurt under current Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac. His career was also helped by Croatia’s performance at the 2018 World Cup, as he was one of the standout stars of the Croatia national team that reached the finals but lost to France.
“I want to show everyone that I have improved a lot since the last Serie A experience and that I deserve to be here and to be able to represent Milan,” said Rebic in an interview with the club’s official website after his loan move to Milan was completed.
Style of play
Rebic is a versatile left-winger whose biggest strengths are his dribbling and one-on-one ability. In the Croatia national team set-up, he plays from the right while Bayern Munich winger Ivan Perisic plays from the left. He is quick and strong and can use his body to protect the ball and advance past opponents with it. Rebic works best when given space to drive into and beat opponents, after which he delivers a cross into the box. On occasions where there aren’t many options in the box after he beats the defender, Rebic slows down, forcing the defender to collide with him and win a foul. This helps his team relieve pressure and produce attacking opportunities from set-pieces too. He is very aggressive off the ball and presses high up the pitch, with a preference for harassing midfielders off the ball.
A massive part of Rebic’s style of play is his link-up play and his willingness to drop deep to receive the ball in pockets of space. He is very aware of space on the pitch and is excellent at finding pockets of space to receive the ball in and join midfield and attack. However, he is not a great passer of the ball – his technical ability in terms of passing lets him down too often. This is mostly due to his poor decision making when pressured on the ball. He shows a willingness to be better though, as he always attempts the more technical passes such as through balls and long balls.
Rafael Leao is a versatile forward capable of playing as a left-winger or a striker. He is capable of cutting into the centre onto his stronger right foot from the left-wing, and his ability to play in the centre as a striker is due to his composure, clinical finishing, and eye for goal. He has explosive acceleration, agility, quick feet, and creativity when in possession of the ball – he is adept at sudden changes of pace or direction to beat opponents in one on one situations.
In addition to his technical skills, Leao has intelligent movement and ability to beat the defensive line by making attacking runs into space both on and off the ball. His ability to time his runs enables him to stretch opposing defences and make him a dangerous offensive threat on counter-attacks.
Leao and Rebic are almost the same kind of player. However, experience in various set-ups in various leagues as well as on the international stage count for Rebic in this discourse.
Also, Rebic is physically stronger than Leao and will prove harder to dispossess. Leao on the other hand, is trickier and can dribble his way out of sticky situations. Leao offers his teams flair, better passing options and height in attack, while Rebic offers his team aggressiveness, directness, and more shots at goal due to his willingness to shoot on sight.
Who should be starting for Milan?
The Portuguese starlet’s average defensive and offensive stats from 30 career appearances compared to the Croat’s average defensive and offensive stats from 121 career appearances per WhoScored are more promising and bankable. However, Leao still needs time to adapt to the aggressiveness of Serie A and this is why Rebic should get the nod ahead of the youngster.
Giampaolo gave Leao his second start of the season in the loss to Torino last night, making good on his word to start more of his new signings and the youngster did well. He was one of the best performers in an underwhelming Milan side. He won the penalty that led to Krzysztof Piatek’s goal and almost got on the scoresheet after a defensive mishap but was denied by Salvatore Sirigu in the Torino goal.
Rebic came into the match in the 78th minute and put in a good shift as well, with glimpses of his experience showing in his play.
However, at this stage of the competition and with Giampaolo’s Milan career under strict review, the experience of Rebic is what Milan needs and it will do Milan, as well as Giampaolo’s career, some good.