Rafael Leao unveiled his new book ‘Smile’ today, which revealed some interesting reflections on his first few years at Milan under Marco Giampaolo and Stefano Pioli.

The Portuguese forward has been with the Rossoneri since the summer of 2019 but only began to develop into a star under Pioli, emerging as a top player in Europe in the 2021-22 season as his team lifted the Scudetto.

Whilst Leao has continued to grow and shine with Milan, attracting the attention of top clubs around Europe, he’s remained loyal and he penned a new deal last summer, extending his stay to June 2028. This term, he’s netted nine goals and provided eight assists in 32 matches across all competitions.

Calciomercato.com revealed some excerpts from Leao’s book, starting with the lack of relationship between the player and his first coach at Milan.

“In my career at Milan I had two coaches, or perhaps only one. There was practically no type of relationship between me and Giampaolo, we didn’t speak to each other, I had only recently been at Milan and for a footballer like me, at 19, settling in was the first challenge to face.

“Initially I was looking for a familiar language in the locker room, so André Silva, the only Portuguese in the team, helped me a bit with the language, but after a month he was sold, so I started to bond with other new players like Ismael Bennacer, bought three days after me and who I still call brother today.

“Right from the start I had objectives, but it wasn’t easy, the coach didn’t understand how to use me on the pitch and with him I had a cold relationship, formal greetings at training and nothing else, the difficulty in communicating which added to those of the team on the pitch.

“We played badly, I played poorly, and after a few games the coach was sacked. Only seven games and everything changed again.”

He then spoke about the arrival of Pioli in the closing months of 2019.

“New coach, new methods, I had to try to find space and a way of communicating with Mister Pioli. At the beginning we weren’t in tune with Pioli.

“I remember his press conference which had annoyed me, in which he had said things that in my opinion he shouldn’t have said, which he should’ve discussed before the team.”

Finally, Leao opened up about how he found a strong feeling with Pioli.

“It took time before we understood how to relate, in the meantime he had the talent to find the best ways for me and the team. He put me in a position to make a difference and that’s how we got closer. The secret was finding a clear and direct way of talking to each other.

“It’s normal for there to be discussions within a locker room, there they are everywhere. And as in life, as in families, not talking to each other is often the worst choice you can decide to make.

“Talking always clarifies everything, sometimes it doesn’t go the way you wanted, of course, but better a truth that can hurt you than a lie.”

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