It’s no secret that Everton are looking for a striker that will challenge Dominic Calvert-Lewin this coming season. A number of names have been linked with the Blues, from untested youngsters to over-the-hill veterans, and this latest one is on the younger end of the scale.
Rafael Leao was first mentioned back in March, and the ‘Portuguese Mbappe’ has been linked once again with the Blues, according to Spanish outlet SUPER Deporte. The LOSC Lille striker has completed his first season in Ligue 1 and had a scintillating year, scoring 8 goals with 2 assists in 26 appearances as his side ended in second place, well-adrift of Paris St. Germain and three points ahead of a vaunted Olympique Lyon side.
The relatively low goal total was because Leao split time with veteran Loic Remy as centreforward, but the most goals came from the wing position at Lille with in-demand Nicolas Pepe getting 22 strikes and fellow winger Jonathan Bamba popping up with 13 of his own.
Widely scouted by Barcelona and Manchester City among other, Leao’’s outstanding qualities are his blinding pace, strength on the ball and good finishing. He was recently in action this summer at the Under-20 World Cup with Portugal alongside Everton’s Joao Virginia, scoring once as his side failed to make it out of the group stages. He has 43 international appearances at various youth levels but hasn’t broken into the senior side yet like fellow youngster João Félix.
Right now the only serious interest in the player besides Everton is from Valencia, who finished in fourth place in La Liga and will be going to the Champions League this season. Lille themselves will be in the European showcase, but could be tempted to cash in on the player that joined on a free transfer (from Sporting CP) and could command somewhere in the €30 million range, which is just about the going rate for any Premier League-level player nowadays.
Dubbed ‘the best player in Sporting’s academy since Cristiano Ronaldo’, Leao would fit right in with the sizable Portuguese-speaking contingent at Finch Farm. Marco Silva and his assistant manager Luis Boa Morte, Brazilians Richarlison and Bernard, Portuguese Andre Gomes and the aforementioned Virginia would all make him very comfortable in his new surroundings.
His playing style would be a good fit for what Silva preaches too - pressing high up the pitch and winning the ball back, and then quickly launching an attack by distributing the ball out wide.
The concerns though would come from his lack of experience. His frame and strengths are too similar to Calvert-Lewin’s and wouldn’t necessarily provide Silva with a different dimension that say Cenk Tosun brings, for example.
This would be a bigger surprise should Everton make it happen than if it doesn’t.