Despite the closure of the transfer window on Friday, the future of Real Madrid midfielder Kaka remains up for debate. Offers were mooted from China, the US and Milan, but for now the 30-year-old remains in limbo and the clock is ticking on a career that may end up fizzling out prematurely.
It was little surprise that the transfer window shut with the La Liga champions insistent that a considerable chunk of the €56m outlay on the player was recouped. Yet for all of Madrid’s intransigence in keeping hold of the player, it is now five games into the season and he is still to don a Los Blancos shirt. Meanwhile, the arrival of Luka Modric and Michael Essien has intensified competition for midfield places still further.
Amid all the gloom, however, it would be easy to forget that Kaka enjoyed a respectable pre-season campaign that was capped with a hat-trick of assists in the 5-1 defeat of Milan. Furthermore, while the blistering acceleration that separated him from his peers in his mid-20s has subsided, he has done well to reinvent himself as a more creative midfielder, rather than the second striker role he enjoyed at San Siro. His 14 assists from just 27 starts last year – the highest total of his career – testify to the changing dimension of his game. It is matched with a determination to reclaim a place in the squad.
“I arrive before the other players, do separate training, then practice with the squad,” an upbeat Kaka told Globo TV this week.
“The only way I’m going to get another chance is training more than the others and that’s what I’ve been doing. Little by little the fans lost their faith in me, but I haven’t lost hope yet and I believe I can still do a lot of good things at this club.”
However, the former Sao Paulo midfielder’s redevelopment still looks like not being enough to threaten the first-team status of Mourinho’s creative triumvirate behind the strikers in Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria. That three were exceptional in delivering Madrid their first Primera Division title in four years. Ozil in particular is the one whose form and consistency in a central position – 45 assists in the two seasons since joining from Werder Bremen – has reduced Kaka to the role of a spectator.
Competing in a squad that contains a trio of attacking midfielders unlikely to be bettered anywhere bar Barcelona, Kaka finds himself in a quandary. The only clubs who can afford his fee and wages either already have plentiful options, or reside in peripheral Leagues not in keeping with a player of his ambitions.
“I even ask myself, how much is all this effort worth? Would it not be better to go elsewhere, even to another League that is less competition? The answer is yes, I still want it [to play for Real Madrid],” he mused this week.
With a World Cup on home soil less than two years away, Kaka will need to feature regularly and at a reasonable standard. So far he has been unable to marry up those two crucial factors which would see him not only involved in the Selecao for 2014, but make a meaningful contribution in club football before his career is all but over.