Hexagoal Ligue 1 Trophy

Rising Star: Rafael Leao (LOSC)

Publish on 16/02/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS


For most of the season, Ligue 1 Conforama's second-best attack could count on the Nicolas Pépé-Jonathan Bamba-Jonathan Ikoné trio for goals, but another weapon has appeared in LOSC's arsenal...

With seven goals from just ten starts, Portugal U21 star Rafael Leao is proving to be a deadly addition.

"He's a young lad with huge potential, because of both his athleticism and his eye for goal!" enthused coach Christoph Galtier on the Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS. "He's a rough diamond, we have to polish him and shape him up nicely, so we can get the best from what he has to offer."

Signed from Sporting Lisbon last summer, Leao initially needed time to adapt. Handed his debut in October, the 19-year-old proved he was ready, though, by scoring the winner in the 1-0 victory over SM Caen.

"It’s a different city to Lisbon, but I’m very happy here," explained Leao. "It's too cold but it's comfortable I like Lille."

The powerful forward has already acquired the nickname 'the Portuguese Mbappé' - fitting considering both men grew up idolising a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.

"When I was young, I saw his videos on YouTube, so when I went to training I would try to do what he does on the pitch!" Leao beamed.

While he still has a long way to go to match Ronaldo's incredible goalscoring record, Leao has found the net in six of his last seven league outings.

"He's a deadly forward," Galtier continued. "It's been easy for him to create understandings with other attacking players, thanks to his movement."

      Leao (l.) and Galtier (r.) have been a match made in heaven at Lille this season.

"If the team does a good job, I can score goals and assist my partners," concurred Leao. "So I'm happy for myself, and for the team."

Strong in the air, and at ease with the ball at feet, Leao has forced his way into Lille's starting XI. If he can perform consistently, Les Dogues' No.7 could soon be a world beater.

"I have to improve every day but the coach is very good and he helps me every day in training so I'm very happy to be here in Lille," said the striker, whose coach is confident.

"He's only 19, there will be ups and down to come in his career," concluded Galtier. "But we’ll get him on the right track!"