A week has passed since Kaka’s much-publicised £56m move to Real Madrid and the fact that it still remains the subject of intense debate amongst supporters and the world’s press speaks volumes about the man himself.
His professionalism and work ethic is something of a rarity in the ego-ridden world of the modern day footballer and the fact he is not always mentioned in the same breath as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi perhaps has more to do with Milan’s recent failure to win silverware than the player himself. The Brazilian scored a total of 95 goals for Milan and fittingly ended his six-year stay by finishing as the Rossoneri’s top scorer last term with 16 goals in just 31 appearances. There are few in world football that can claim to have matched the Brazilian’s achievements. As well as winning both the Champions League and a Scudetto in his six years with Milan, Kaka can also boast a World Cup winner’s medal (in 2002) and the coveted World Footballer of the Year title (2007) in an already glittering career. A remarkable feat considering his relatively tender age of 27.
His presence will undoubtedly be missed in an ageing Milan midfield and one only has to look at the statistics to realise the impact Kaka’s departure could have on the Rossoneri. Milan managed to win just one of seven games without the influential playmaker last term. When Kaka injured a knee, missing two games in December, il Diavalo lost 4-2 to Juventus and could only draw with 2-2 with Wolfsburg in the UEFA Cup. On his return, the Brazilian scored twice in a 5-1 demolition of Udinese. History then repeated itself in February as the 27 year-old picked up another injury. This time, in his five game absence, Milan won just twice, were dumped out of the UEFA Cup by Werder Bremen and lost the crucial Milan derby, effectively handing the title to their rivals. On his return, the Rossoneri again won 5-1, this time against Siena. Whilst some will put the results down to coincidence, the Rossoneri simply do not look the same side without him.
In selling Kaka, Milan not only lose one of their most influential players, but also advertise their other players to teams if the price is right – a worrying signal given the money that teams such as Chelsea and Manchester City have at their disposal. Whilst few can begrudge Kaka a move away from an under-achieving side he has served so loyally, many have raised eyebrows about his choice of destination. Madrid may have won a title in 2007/08, but last term they finished nine points behind rivals Barcelona, losing their last five games of the season. They have also failed to progress beyond the semi-final stages of the Champions League since winning the competition seven years ago. In contrast, Milan has reached the final three times in this period, winning the competition twice. However, with Carlo Ancelotti leaving the San Siro and Madrid looking to start a second Galacticos era, perhaps the transfer reiterates the shift in power away from Italy in European competition. Having turned down a big-money move to Manchester City in the January transfer window, one can assume his motivations were not for financial gain.
Some will point to the reported £56m received for Kaka as a much-needed opportunity to strengthen Milan’s squad, or perhaps to open the door for Ronaldinho to gain more first-team opportunities and rediscover his early form, but Kaka’s loss is a bitter blow. There can be little doubt that Milan still possess and array of world class players in midfield positions – Ronaldinho, Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo, Genaro Gattuso, perhaps David Beckham again in the Winter, the list goes on – but the primary concern is both fitness and consistency. The latter quartet are all in their 30s, with both Pirlo and Gattuso suffering long spells on the sidelines through injury last term.
New Head Coach Leonardo now has the unenviable task of finding a suitable replacement to fill the significant void left by his departed star, as Milan attempt to win their first Scudetto since the 2003/04 season.