By Lorenzo Scala
The January rumour mill is spinning once more in Italy with a host of speculative suggestions and stories surfacing in the daily sports newspapers.
Hot topic in Milan at the moment is the 'almost definate' return to the peninsula of the Brazilian who ‘belongs to Jesus' as early as January, following what clearly was a less than flattering year and a bit at Real Madrid. The only debate to this story which remains unresolved is the technicality of which team he will sign for, be it a sheepish return to the club which made his name household, or to city rivals Inter in an Ibrahimovic-like counter-retaliation, an "in your face" style transfer of revenge for Massimo Moratti (who was as bemused as club captain Javier Zanetti at the rapid and enthusiastic return of Ibra to derby cousins Milan and the disconnection of any sign of affinity to his former side in doing so).
Talk of a return to Milan has been greeted with divide from the rossoneri support. Those inclined to the sentiment of their hearts welcome the prospect with nostalgic joy. Those who dream with the head, stand opposed to the inevitable disruption the ‘almost’ legendary No22 would bring to squad balance/team spirit/general direction of the club... A club which in recent times have signalled an intent to build solid new foundations for the future, based on fresh ideas (Allegri), talent (Ibra, Robinho, Thiago Silva) and youth (Pato).
It is scenario that tempts history to repeat itself, considering only a couple of years ago Andriy Shevchenko discovered his ‘home-coming’ to be tinged in rather less glorious outcome than he might have wished. Kaka’s performances at Real - although not yet deserving of the label ‘flop’- have left a certain atmosphere of disillusionment upon the Madrid fans who rightly expected an emulation of the success of other similarly priced high profile signings, such as Zinedane Zidane.
Chronic injuries, lack of fitness, lack of form or adjustment to a new team and setup and tiredness are all genuine excuses that may have contributed to Kaka’s unfortunate downfall at Madrid. These problems have however, marginalised Kaka from the plans of Jose Mourinho, who has placed his faith in younger talents such as Mezut Ozil and Angel Di Maria to spearhead the Madrid renaissance and have pushed Kaka ever closer to the edge of a wobbly plank.
A return to Milan would require a significant re-investment of cash for a player initially purchased for a measly €8.5m in 2003, with the latest fee hovering around the €30m mark. It could also be viewed as another bit of shrewd business by Galliani, who would still come out smiling on the initial £56m investment Real placed in Milan’s bank for Kaka’s services in the summer of 2009. Regardless of the economics of the transfer though, the testing dilemma that will certainly keep Galliani, if not Berlusconi up at night, will be the uncertainty of return on a fresh investment in the Kaka ‘brand’.
Kaka is remembered with endearing affection in Milan for 6 years which inspired a spell of great success for both, himself as an individual and for Milan as a club. Sentiment and nostalgia alone however should not cloud the judgement of the present and the future of the club and Galliani will be ever more wary of making a decision that could potentially negate the progress that the club has achieved in the short but highly transitional time since Kaka left.
As a Milan fan, it would be tough to watch Kaka perform in the Inter shirt, should that indeed happen. But as other events have demonstrated in recent times, football today is a very dynamic sport where changes occur frequently and certainties are all but extinguished.
If the rumours are correct and Kaka does switch clubs in January, then whether it is to Inter or to Milan, or indeed to reunite with former mentor and boss Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, the most important thing for fans of football, is that Kaka returns to the level of play that has made him such a household name.
There are few greater sights in football today, than witnessing Kaka in full flight bearing down the opposition on one of his trademark progressive runs from midfield. Let’s hope wherever he goes, we are privileged to witness that exhilarating phenomenon once more.