How Kaka went from Ballon d’Or winner to £56m outcast following transfer to Real Madrid

Paul Macdonald
How Kaka went from Ballon d’Or winner to £56m outcast following transfer to Real Madrid

During Kaka’s time at Milan, he established himself as the best attacking midfielder on the planet, winning the Ballon d’Or in 2007 after claiming that season’s Champions League crown.

In his maiden campaign with the Rossoneri in 2003/04, the Brazilian won his first and only Serie A title, scoring 10 goals and providing six assists in 30 top-flight appearances.

Although the San Siro outfit struggled to replicate their impressive domestic display, Kaka had no such trouble, recording an incredible 20 assists in all competitions the following year.

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He continued to exert his goalscoring and creative expertise across Italian and European football for the next four seasons, racking up 307 appearances for Milan and collecting a Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup and Italian Super Cup to go alongside his Serie A and Champions League victories.

After establishing himself as a firm fans-favourite following three consecutive top 10 Ballon d’Or finishes and 53 goals between 2006/07 and 2008/09, the South American couldn’t resist the call of Real Madrid.

How did Kaka’s move work out for Real Madrid?

Life started out well for Kaka after swapping San Siro for the Santiago Bernabeu, bagging three goals and laying on three assists for his teammates in his opening seven games for Los Blancos.

Although he managed to maintain his fast start until February, injury issues plagued the second half of Kaka’s opening season in the Spanish capital, starting just four of Madrid’s final 14 league games.

Despite Florentino Perez sanctioning a record-breaking outlay on Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema to play alongside the Brazilian playmaker, Madrid ended the 2009/10 season empty-handed, leading to Manuel Pellegrini’s departure.

His replacement was the enigmatic and controversial Jose Mourinho fresh from completing an unprecedented treble with Inter. The Portuguese boss was tasked with ending Barcelona’s domestic domination, and Kaka was expected to play a key part.

A Copa del Rey arrived in Mourinho’s first season at the helm, but he had to do so without his most influential midfielder. A meniscus injury limited Kaka to just 20 appearances throughout 2010/11 and he was forced to watch the cup final victory over Barca from the bench.

Kaka at Madrid

Appearances120
Goals29
Assists39
Trophies won3

However, it was third time lucky for Kaka in Madrid as Los Blancos won La Liga in what was his most successful campaign in an all-white strip. The former Milan man scored eight goals and managed 16 assists as he made 40 appearances, his highest total throughout his four-year stay in Spanish football.

Unfortunately for Kaka, his final season for Madrid ended with a whimper. A drop-off in form saw him start just 12 league games and score five goals, his lowest return throughout his senior career.

Kaka was never able to replicate the form that had seen him earn his £56 million transfer during his time in Madrid. Even in his best moments, the revered trequartista was always shy of the heights he had formally reached.

He later admitted that Mourinho was a hard coach for him to work with and that his confidence was shot after departing Milan.

Injuries were also an almost ever-present issue during Kaka’s spell with the 13-time European champions and combined with a lack of belief and a troubled relationship with the manager, it proved to be a recipe for disappointment.

How did Kaka’s move work out for AC Milan?

How Kaka went from Ballon d’Or winner to £56m outcast following transfer to Real Madrid

How Kaka went from Ballon d’Or winner to £56m outcast following transfer to Real Madrid

Since Kaka’s departure, it’s been a turbulent time for Milan. A Scudetto arrived two years after the South American left, but it quickly went downhill after that.

Financial troubles and poor off-field decisions contributed to a rapid decline of this European giant, with the Rossoneri falling as low as 10th in the top-flight table in 2014/15.

Since then though, Milan have begun their road to redemption and are currently on course to end a seven-year absence from Champions League football.

Stefano Pioli has his young side playing an exciting brand of football, and it seems as though the Italian outfit are finally on course to return to the level that Kaka took them to 14 years ago.