In a summer of thrift in the global transfer market - when a lack of any real action has generated the usual fairy tales - surely someone can offer Kaka a happy ending. The Brazilian midfielder has been frozen out at Real Madrid and, unless someone makes a move for the former Ballon d'Or winner and World Player of the Year, it seems he will be limited to an occasional Copa Del Rey run-out or a few minutes in a dead rubber Champions League tie until January at least.
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It has not quite worked out for the player that set the San Siro alight before Real offered AC Milan ¬65 million for his services in 2009. That deal made Kaka, at least briefly until Cristiano Ronaldo waltzed into Madrid, the most expensive player in the history of the sport. A long layoff during Jose Mourinho's first year at the Bernabeu in 2010-11 saw Kaka slip down the pecking order as Special One acquisitions Mesut Ozil and Angel di Maria laid claim to berths in the first XI. When the 2011-12 season kicked off, a fully fit Kaka saw his contribution gradually reduced to the extent that although he made 41 appearances, compared to 20 the year before, the Brazilian only featured for 90 minutes on seven occasions.
Kaka still finds himself on the Real Madrid bench © Associated
Still, Kaka chalked up eight goals and 14 assists as Real went on to win the league and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League. In the match against Bayern, Kaka was introduced as a substitute once more and, it is fair to say, had a stinker. But no player can be expected to be called into the fray so erratically and perform to the best of their abilities. Fernando Torres said this week that he has regained his eye for goal as a result of simply being on the field for Spain during the Euros and Chelsea since the season's start - although being the only senior out-and-out striker at the London club at the moment has aided the Spaniard's cause.
During pre-season, Mourinho shuffled his immense midfield pack during the World Football Challenge in the USA, using Kaka in all four matches for a total of 165 minutes. Upon the squad's return to competitive action, he has made the bench once, against Valencia, and was then omitted from the squads to face Barcelona and Getafe - games that both ended in defeat.
What has made Mourinho so hostile to Kaka's presence at the Bernabeu? The emergence of Jose Callejon, a player hauled back from a spell at Espanyol in 2011, and the summer-long pursuit of Luka Modric, finally brought to fruition this week, are factors but to entirely discard a player of Kaka's ability seems to smack of the bloody mindedness for which the Portuguese is famous. It's not even clear where Modric will be deployed, and the tiny Croat may well be joining his more decorated colleague in the dugout for the time being.
In contrast to Modric's campaign to be freed of his "nightmare" at Tottenham, Kaka has not complained openly about his treatment, but behind the scenes the Brazilian must be fuming; if he is not wanted, why will Real not let him go?
Mourinho reportedly blocked a loan move to Milan earlier in the summer, saying he would prefer Kaka to go to Brazil or the USA. Milan had offered to pay his wages - a cool ¬9 million a year - but Real are holding out for a fee for the World Cup winner, while actively soliciting loan deals for Nuri Sahin and Esteban Granero. In the case of the former, foisted onto Liverpool for the season, Real commanded a fee of ¬5 million for a player who has made a grand total of ten appearances for the club; insult to Kaka's lack of injury.
Milan have been very vocal about bringing their prodigal son back to San Siro and, given their underwhelming trade so far this summer, it would have given the Rossoneri fans something to cheer after the club pocketed ¬63 million for the sale of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to PSG. Even after an outlay of ¬20 million on new arrivals, a fair bit of change remains behind Silvio Berlusconi's sofa cushions and Kaka was understandably keen to return. However, that door slammed shut on Tuesday with the curious words of Adriano Galliani, as told to Milan Channel: "We were waiting on the opinion of a well-known Spanish economics expert, and that has now arrived. The operation is closed because there are too many risks."
Kaka may belong to God but there are no issues regarding third party ownership in this case. Real possesses a player they seem ready to consign to a season of training with the reserves without entertaining the notion of accepting a fee of ¬10 to ¬15 million, despite ¬27 million pending on the three remaining years of the Brazilian's current deal.
Tottenham perhaps missed a trick when announcing their "working understanding" with Real in the wake of the Modric deal; the Londoners could have asked for Kaka on a season-long loan as part of that transaction. That a player capable of the sublime, even having turned 30-years-old, looks set to spend the season as a spectator at the Bernabeu beggars logic. But in the current scenario Real seem reluctant to gift anything to their European rivals, no matter the borrower.
"I'll be happy if goes, and equally happy if he stays," Mourinho said of his expensive ornament. Kaka is caught in a sea of contradictions. If nobody throws the Brazilian a lifeline before Friday night, his illustrious career could well sink without trace.