Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Returning Players’ series. In this edition, we take a look at Kaká. The Brazilian sensation played for AC Milan from 2003 up until 2009 and made his return in 2013.
Returning Players – Kaká
First Spell at AC Milan
Kaká started his career in his homeland Brazil and turned out for São Paulo. In 2003, he impressed enough European teams to make the switch to Milan for €8.5 million. Looking back, that is a major bargain for Milan, so much so that at the time former Rossoneri owner Silvio Berlusconi called it “peanuts.”
It didn’t take long for the Brazilian to make his mark as he scored ten goals in 30 league matches his first season. This is impressive, considering he competed with the likes of Andriy Shevchenko and Filippo Inzaghi for goals. Milan won Serie A that year and to no one’s surprise, he was awarded Serie A’s Footballer of the Year.
More success poured in following that. The next year was the year of the ‘Miracle in Istanbul,’ a foggy memory in the minds of Milan faithful. The following season was successful for Kaká as well, but 2006/07 was his banner year.
Shevchenko left for Chelsea, making the Brazilian the top player in Milan’s attack. He won the Champions League as well as the Ballon d’Or before adding the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.
Manchester City approached Milan for Kaká in January of 2009 but it was declined. When Real Madrid came knocking the following summer, however, it was too good of a deal to pass up. He ended his first spell in Italy with 95 goals from 270 appearances.
Teams That Kaká Played for in Between
The Brazilian departed Milan for Real Madrid in a reported €67 million fee. Looking back, it was foolish for Milan to part ways with their star, but former CEO Adriano Galliani claimed it was for economic reasons. It’s safe to say he was right, as the next couple of years signalled Milan’s downfall due to those economic factors.
Kaká’s first season was solid, but not spectacular, for the club. He scored nine goals and provided eight assists in all competitions. In short, there were too many mouths to feed at Real Madrid.
The next couple of seasons were plagued with injury for the former Ballon d’Or winner. Many of them were months on end. Slowly but surely, Mesut Özil became Real Madrid’s top playmaker, leaving Kaká in the dust.
Return to AC Milan
Kaká returned to Milan in September of 2013 on a free transfer. There were performance-related incentives for Real Madrid, but his injuries clearly affected his value. He was welcomed back with open arms, however, as Milan were struggling and needed their leader back.
Milan were still in the Champions League at the time, but it became clear that the team had deep financial issues and was primed for a major downfall. After the 2013/14 season, Milan are yet to make a return to the Champions League.
Impact Upon Return
Kaká tore an adductor muscle in his first league appearance back with Milan, which sidelined him for a month. He decided to reject any wages during that time until he regained fitness. His love for Milan became quite clear once again.
Kaká went on to have a few solid games versus top clubs, such as Barcelona and Lazio. He also scored his 100th official goal for the club in a match versus Atalanta.
He led Milan’s attack versus Atleticó Madrid in the Round of 16 in the Champions League, but Diego Simeone’s squad was more than Milan could handle. Atleticó went on to win 5-1 on aggregate, but Kaká was Milan’s lone scorer.
To end his illustrious time at Milan, the Brazilian golden boy scored a brace versus Chievo Verona, adding an exclamation mark to his 300th match with the club.
Despite not winning anything on his return, the Brazilian netted a further nine goals in 37 outings. He returned to São Paulo a Milan legend.