It was high praise but few would have argued with him. After ripping apart Anderlecht with a hat-trick in the Champions League group stage back in 2006, Carlo Ancelotti labelled Kaka ‘the best player in the world’. The Brazilian would go on to score another five goals in the competition as he guided Milan to their seventh European title.
Such days are a far cry to Kaka’s current reality. Since his move to Real Madrid in 2009, the former World Player of the Year has not, in the eyes of most, justified the significant outlay by Florentino Perez to bring him to Spain. His 29 goals in 122 appearances for Los Blancos perhaps explain why. Though, he has had his moments.
In his second season at the club, Kaka scored a brace and set up another two in a 6-2 demolition of Villarreal. Just two years ago many were claiming that Kaka ‘was back’ after his storming performance in the Champions League at home to Ajax which saw Marca shriek with the headline, “Kaka at last”. Shortly after, he was a key figure in a 5-0 win over Espanyol where he scored one and provided two assists.
But overall, his moments of brilliance have been too few and too far between. For this reason, Kaka has been the subject of transfer rumours for the best part of three years now.
Though, stories linking the Brazilian with a move away have died down this summer. There is one reason for this – the arrival of Ancelotti as Jose Mourinho’s replacement.
It was under the Italian’s tutelage that Kaka was last at his best. Now reunited after four years apart, if there was one man who can still get the best out of him it would be Carletto, as he is affectionately known.
Football fans the world over would love to see Kaka get back to his best. If Carlo can help him do so, he certainly would endear himself to Perez – who spent over €60 million to sign him. It would make for a fairy-tale ending for all concerned.
Yet, the question has to be asked, “is it too late?”
When at his peak, one feature that helped make the playmaker so unstoppable was his pace. Due to injuries over the years however, he has lost that area of his game. Now, well into his thirties, it will be harder than ever for him to regain it.
“He has to improve his speed,” recognised Ancelotti who had the player under a special training regime earlier this preseason before allowing him to join the team.
Yet, since his return to the side there has been little to suggest that Kaka’s speed and acceleration have improved any great deal and nor his overall form for that matter. And, for this reason little to suggest that this season will be any different to previous ones.
To complicate matters, there will be even greater competition for a starting berth this season. Isco, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo will all by vying for a place in the first team. And let’s not to forget, Gareth Bale is most likely on his way.
All this does not bode well for the 31-year-old’s future in the Spanish capital. Ancelotti’s arrival will surely have given him some hope that things will improve for him. But, unfortunately, it is hard to see just how. In all likeliness, it is perhaps a case of too little too late.