It’s never easy watching a childhood hero retire, and for many, this may be the year they see it happen to theirs.
His name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, but to football fans alike his name is Kaká. From Champions League to the Ballon d’Or, he has won it all and for the past three years, he has been playing in Major League Soccer with Orlando City Soccer Club. However, this might be the season he hangs it all up and retires.
At the age of 35, his body just can’t take the physicality of the game anymore and as a result, has been plagued with injuries during his time in Orlando. In a recent interview with the Brazilian newspaper Globo Esporte, Kaká explains:
“I finish playing a game and feel a lot of pain. My body starts to feel it, and it no longer brings me that much happiness.”
This is clearly a player who has given his entire life to the game and has reached a point where his body just can’t handle the intensity of a full season. After he said his goodbye last Sunday in front of the home crowd in Orlando with tears in his eyes, the burning question for many fans is: Will this be Kaká’s final season? If it is, the game of football will be losing a living legend.
His legacy is one that many could only dream of and the impact he has had on countless youth is unequivocal. For those that grew up watching Kaká play, many will tell you he is the reason they fell in love with football. He is a once in a generation player and the image of him on his knees praying wearing the ‘I Belong To Jesus’ shirt will stick in the minds of fans long after when he does decide to retire.
Now with that being said, he does not seem dead set on leaving the world of football behind. He does seem to be considering his options at the moment, one of which may be a six-month return to Milan where he enjoyed the most success over his storied career. The other option he expressed interest in is to become a manager and to possibly emulate the success of Real Madrid manager Zidane. This would be a logical progression in his career and with strong ties with his boyhood club São Paulo and his former Milan, he could surely find a position.
Lastly, the impact he had on Major League Soccer and its growth as a league the past couple years cannot be ignored. Even though he was the most expensive Major League Soccer player and failed to lead his team to a playoff appearance, he still has done so much for the exposure of the league.
Since the expansion that included NYCFC and Orlando City – and respectively the introduction of David Villa and Kaká – the league has gained a tremendous global presence. Since their first season, the MLS has welcomed many players from around the world like Sebastian Giovinco, Romain Alessandrini, and Josef Martinez. These are players who are still in their prime and chose to make the move to the MLS over other leagues. The growth of the league cannot be fully placed on the addition of Kaká, but he certainly was the type of name that helped the league gain exposure in the rest of the world. While it is evident Kaká is not the greatest to ever play in the MLS he, however, is one of the greatest things to happen to the league.
The reality that it might be Kaká’s final season of a footballer is an emotional one for many and you’ll seldom find someone with an illustrious career as his, whether it be his legendary seasons in rossonero or his final years with Orlando where he would remind fans just how good he is even in his thirties. So while it might be the last year of him on the field, it certainly will not be the last we hear of the legendary Kaká.