Kaka — Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite (born 22 April 1982), commonly known as Kaka, is a Brazilian football midfielder who currently plays for Real Madrid C.F. and the Brazilian national team.
Kaka is firmly established as one of the finest players in the world. With a capacity to glide almost effortlessly past opponents, provide defence-splitting passes and score consistently from distance, the attacking midfielder won the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2007 and made the five-man shortlist for sport’s most prestigious individual honour again the following year.
Born in Brasilia in 1982, his family relocated to Sao Paulo when Kaka was young and it was there that he excelled at football and tennis. He ultimately elected to pursue the former and, after recovering from a career-threatening injury he suffered as a 15-year-old, he joined Sao Paulo.
Kaka made his Tricolor Paulista debut in January 2001 and, after helping his club lift the Torneio Rio-Sao Paulo trophy, was named in Brazil’s squad for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan. Although he was afforded little playing time in the Far East, he returned from the tournament with a winner’s medal. Later that year he claimed Placar magazine’s Bola de Ouro, awarded to the Campeonato Brasileiro’s stand-out performer, and the following year he became the property of AC Milan.
There, with superstars Rivaldo and Manuel Rui Costa on the Rossoneri books, it was assumed the young Brazilian would be sent out on loan to gain experience. That move never materialised. Instead, Kaka, who got his first-team break due to injuries in the squad, rendered himself non-droppable and scored ten times in 30 outings as Milan roared to the Serie A title.
Kaka continued to excel over the following two seasons, illuminating the UEFA Champions League during the 2004/05 campaign, which culminated in his team’s loss on penalties to Liverpool in an enthralling final, but his reputation accelerated to new heights in 2007; a year in which he played the leading role in Milan’s capture of the Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup titles. Among the countless personal honours he received that year were a second Serie A Footballer of the Year award and the FIFA World Player gong. Injuries hindered Kaka in the 2008/09 season. However, when he started, he sparkled.
Kaka has been a fixture in the Brazil team since 2003, and by the end of 2008 had scored 23 goals in 62 internationals – interestingly, A Seleção have never lost a match in which he has found the target.
Kaka radiated as Brazil won the FIFA Confederations Cup Germany 2005, and his brilliant strike from distance earned them a 1-0 victory over Croatia in their 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ opener. However, he and his fellow attacking geniuses were unable to find their rhythm for the remainder of the tournament, and the five-time world champions ultimately lost to France in the quarter-finals.
Kaka’s reputation as a leader and decisive playmaker were bolstered dramatically with some impressive showings in South Africa 2010 qualifying and also at the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009, where he scooped the adidas Golden Ball award and man of the match honours for the final against USA.