The match director in charge of the broadcast for the first leg of the Champions League semi-final between Milan and Inter couldn’t help but be drawn to the glittering array of sporting royalty dotted around San Siro.
The Champions League-winning captain Paolo Maldini cast his eye over Milan’s 2-0 loss to their arch-rivals from the same crowd which also contained Samuel Eto’o, Andriy Shevchenko and even tennis icon Novak Djokovic.
Unfortunately for all Rossoneri fans – which Djokovic considers himself to be – Rafael Leao was also part of the all-star cast on the sidelines.
After limping off inside the opening quarter-hour of Milan’s victory over Lazio on Saturday 6 May, Leao missed his side’s subsequent two matches, including the first-leg loss against Inter last Wednesday.
With Inter’s support set to dwarf Milan’s allocation on Tuesday night, they may need Leao more than ever. Here’s everything you need to know about the forward’s injury status.
Leao has been nursing a thigh injury, specifically the group of muscles known as the adductors, over the last ten days.
The only previous matches Leao sat out this season were due to suspension. Manager Stefano Pioli also benched his star winger when switching to a back-three system as January bled into February but invariably turned to the 23-year-old with Milan trailing.
Leao has failed to feature in four club games this season. In his absence, the Rossoneri have lost each and every one.
Ahead of the Champions League semi-final first leg, Leao promised: “Don’t worry about my injury, I’ll be back soon.” However, ‘soon’ hasn’t proved anywhere near fast enough.
Pioli was concise with his latest update ahead of the second leg, offering two words: “He’s better.”
The Milan manager added: “[Rade] Krunic and [Junior] Messias are too. If everything goes as it should, they’ll be available for training later and for tomorrow.”
It is easy to be blinded by the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Inter on Tuesday night. Yet, Milan have a batch of fixtures which may be even more important in the long run.
With just three games of the Serie A season still to play, Milan have slipped to fifth place, four points adrift of Lazio in the final Champions League qualification slot. Four days after the emotionally draining decider against Inter, Milan will…