Lille signs Portugal youth star Leao

Manchester City had been heavily linked to Rafael Leao but Lille has secured the Portuguese teenager on a five-year deal.

Published : Aug 08, 2018 17:55 IST

Lille has completed the signing of highly rated youngster Rafael Leao on a five-year deal.

The 19-year-old forward is a product of the celebrated youth academy of Sporting CP and had been linked to a host of European clubs, most notably Premier League champions Manchester City.

But Lille has stepped in to secure Leao's services, making him the latest talent to escape crisis-hit Sporting as the fallout form a group of fans attacking players and staff at the club's training ground in May continues.

"We are very pleased to have signed Rafael Leao. On July 31, he obtained the status of a free player and the opportunity to recruit him was presented for LOSC but also for many very good clubs that courted him," said Lille CEO Marc Ingla. 

"Rafael chose our proposal and our project and we thank him for his decision. He has impressive technical and physical qualities that make him one of the most attractive and promising young players in world football. 

"We feel that his signature is a rather exceptional event for LOSC and we are confident that the future will confirm it."

Leao, who has represented Portugal at Under-17, Under-19 and Under-21 level, made his first-team breakthrough at Sporting last season and scored his maiden goal against Porto.

He added: "I am very happy to have been able to join LOSC. The club has shown a lot of interest and I am sure that I will be able to progress and flourish here. 

"These last days, everything happened very quickly but I could not refuse this new challenge which is offered to me."

Lille struggled against relegation in Ligue 1 last season after Marcelo Bielsa's ill-fated spell in charge came to an end last December.

Christophe Galtier's men begin their 2018-19 campaign at home to Rennes on Saturday.

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