In recent months I may have given the impression that I regarded Real Madrid midfielder Kaka to be a has-been, an injury crock and and the most expensive flop in the club's history. Comments like “Give him his P45” and “Ship him off to Spurs/Man City/Plymouth Argyle” could have led readers to suppose I was being critical of the player who cost 65 million euros from AC Milan in 2009. I have now been made to realise that there was not a jot of truth in any of this and that the 29-year-old Brazilian remains at the peak of his career, continues to be the jewel in the Madrid's crown and is worth every céntimo of that enormous fee (with apologies to Private Eye).
The performance by the man born Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite in Madrid's 3-0 Champions League win over Ajax on Tuesday has brought Kaka instant rehabilitation, like a Stalinist comrade brought in from the cold. Club officials and the legions of Madrid diehards who purport to be Spanish journalists are now bigging him up in a U-turn of monumental proportions.
“You feel excited to see a player of his ability happy and enjoying himself. Above all, when you take into account his importance for this team in the future,” explained Madrid assistant manager Aitor Karanka, standing in while his superior, Jose Mourinho, completed his three-match punishment for gouging the eyes of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon or something similar.
“Ricardo has had a really bad time,” added Karanka, whose comments caused several hacks to dab their moistening eyes with Madrid-embossed handkerchiefs.
“Kaka at last”, shrieked the headline in pro-Real Madrid rag AS, while its counterpart Marca crowed “The Bernabeu bows to the best of Kaka”, producing a straw poll which revealed that 75% of respondents felt he had secured his future place in the side. And let's hope the God-fearing Brazilian manages to do so. It would be fun to see statisticians dashing to their calculators to establish whether the total sum spent on the Madrid eleven (my guess is 400 million euros but I'm no Pythagoras) exceeds than the national debt of ...Greece?.
Anyway, we can now forget all comparisons with another Milan old boy whose transfer fee proved too heavy to bear. Yes, it's official: Kaka is no Andriy Shevchenko and remains in Mourinho's plans despite a miserable two seasons at Madrid in which injuries and poor form made him a shadow of the star who in 2007 won the World Player of the Year Award and France Football's Golden Ball prize.
It would be fun to see statisticians dashing to their calculators to establish whether the total sum spent on the Madrid eleven (my guess is 400 million euros but I'm no Pythagoras) exceeds than the national debt of ...Greece?.
With Madrid fans now convinced Kaka will be there at Munich's Allianz Arena next May to help their beloved team win Europe's top club competition for a record 10th time, it only remains for me to acknowledge that the attacking midfielder wasn't all that bad against their inexperienced Dutch opponents on Tuesday.
After contributing to a lightning break which led to Cristiano Ronaldo's opening goal, the member of the Christian evangelical association “Atletas de Cristo” doubled the lead with a crisp shot in the 41st minute and celebrated with uncustomary fervour. Kaka then provided an assist for Karim Benzema to complete the scoring early in the second half as Madrid moved clear at the top of Group D. Madrid fans could also take joy in the fact that it was the first time that Cristiano, Kaka, Benzema, the trio of multimillion signings in Madrid's mad summer of 2009, had scored in the same match.
“Stop eating biscuits when God offers us a banquet”, was once Kaka's rebuke to his portly international teammate Ronaldo. After the match, he never tired of offering crumbs to those whose faith in him had been restored.
“I'll say it again: I want to be successful with this team. It was a good match for the team and for me personally. Little by little, I'm showing my ability,” Kaka pronounced. But on a night when another South American, albeit from Argentina, became a devil in Munich, Kaka's remarks bore a certain saintliness.
OK, so he spurned a glaring opportunity midway through the second half before being replaced by Angel di Maria in the 75th minute. But hell, who cares? I'll leave the last word to the most rabid madridista on the AS payroll, Tomás Roncero. “Kaka is here now! I was really tough on him and I'm not pretending otherwise. But tonight I'm tremendously happy because we all wanted to see this Kaka. Let's hope it's not a mirage.”
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