About 14 months ago, many Rossoneri fans were left reeling after Milan’s VP Adriano Galliani announced that the club had come to an agreement with newly rich Ligue 1 side PSG for the combined sale of star players Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. The reason behind the move, according to the executive, was “was merely economic”.
For quite a few fans, it seemed like a bad case of déjà vu, down to even the words uttered by Galliani himself. For, about three years prior, Milan found themselves in a similar situation that saw them departing with not just one of their best players but also a long-term fan favorite.
The day was 8 June 2009 and it was perhaps one of the saddest days for any Rossoneri supporter. Some even went so far as to even describe it as “Milan’s Day of Infamy”, a play on 7 December 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor over 50 years prior. While by no means as significant as an event that thrust a country into one of the worst military conflicts that the world has ever seen, For me, personally, it was a day of mixed emotions as it was also my mum’s birthday, but certainly on a footballing level, I was just as sad as the next fan.
Anyway, after weeks of speculation, Galliani had announced that the 2007 Ballon d’Or winner was heading to the Spanish capital in a deal that was estimated to be approximately in the ballpark of €65-70 million. And the reason behind it? Just like what would take place three years later, Galliani stated to Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport, “We had no choice but to sell Kaka. Milan can’t afford to lose €70 million and the reason for him leaving is merely economic”.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) September 2, 2013
In his first season with Los Blancos, the Brazilian started off well, netting nine times and providing eight assists in 33 appearances for his new club. But, as one is well aware, after that season, things started to go downhill for the player that had won numerous accolades both at a personal and club level during his time at the San Siro. Following an injury sustained while away on international duty with Brazil at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he was sidelined for eight months and returned to action on 3 January 2011, only to see his knee problems flare up again two months later which saw him back on the injury list and his position in the starting XI increasingly becoming diminished due to the growing influence of German international Mesut Ozil, who had been signed by the capital club due to his excellent performances with his national team in the same World Cup.
And, following his return, despite netting twice against Valencia in one of his best matches of the season, manager Jose Mourinho, who had previously stated that “Kaka’s return will be like a new signing for us” had started demanding a more fast-paced, free-flowing footballing style in which he simply wasn’t making the grade, and hence, soon found himself spending more and more time on the substitutes’ bench. Naturally, with the rise of Ozil, who had begun to form a fantastic partnership with star striker Cristiano Ronaldo, the pressure on Kaka began to grow immensely. After all, Los Blancos certainly had the talent who could step up and deliver, and no player, regardless of his price-tag, was immune to criticism or finding his playing time drastically limited.
During last season, he was linked to the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea—how tenuous or realistic those links are subject to speculation—as well as a return to Milan, and this was the same season that was perhaps his worst as a professional to date. With a measly five goals and four assists in 27 appearances, the majority of them as a substitute as well as featuring for less than one hour in four crucial CL ties against Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund, Kaka’s days were certainly numbered with the 9-time CL winners, and despite the exit of Mourinho at the end of the season, it was certain that his time in the Spanish capital had come to an end.
After arriving at Milan, the 31-year-old playmaker enthused that he had “returned home”, and fans were eagerly awaiting his first competitive debut, which he made in a 2-2 draw with Torino this past Saturday. And, due to an injury to current captain Riccardo Montolivo, the no. 22 got to don the captain’s armband whilst on the pitch. Overall, while his performance was far from stellar—after all, it was clear that the player was lacking in match fitness, it was not necessarily through any fault of his own, as despite his free-roaming position which saw him pop up on both wings as well as in the middle, Massimiliano Allegri’s side lacked a certain cohesiveness that really made stringing any sort of attacking play near to impossible at times.
However, in the same vein, it remains to be seen whether he will be able to regain the same form that saw him dazzle the football world to what seems like a lifetime ago. And now out for an indefinite time with a muscular injury, fans might have to wait a bit longer than they would like to see whether one of Milan’s darlings will be able to redeem himself after a nightmare couple of seasons at Real Madrid.