The ever-so-modest Kaka could turn out to be Barca’s best

2009-09-25 00:00

MADRID — Three players have monopolised the headlines, the spotlights and the attention in the new Spanish football season: Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi has put aside his Argentina frustrations and has turned in a series of exhilarating performances for Barcelona. He is joint top Liga scorer on five goals with Ronaldo and Valencia’s David Villa.

Ibrahimovic has made an excellent start at Barca, scoring in all four of the Champions’ League wins and helping the fans to forget Samuel Eto’o.

Ronaldo, for his part, has made an even better start than Ibrahimovic — and a better start than even the most fervent Real Madrid fans hoped for.

The Portuguese winger has scored no fewer than seven goals in Real’s five competitive games (including two in the Champions League against FC Zurich) and has already started to justify his record-breaking € 94 million transfer fee.

However, there is a fourth star in La Liga who should certainly not be overlooked, a player who could turn out to be just as important this season as the other three: Real playmaker Kaka.

The elegant Brazilian has, to a certain extent, been under the shadow of Ronaldo at the Estadio Bernabeu.

Real president paid around a third more for Ronaldo than for Kaka, more fans turned out for the official presentation of the former than for the latter — and Ronaldo has captured all of the headlines so far.

Not that Kaka, always modest and unassuming, seems to mind.

Not for him the cover pictures in the fashion magazines or a torrid night with Paris Hilton.

He is content just to have made a good start at his new club, and to have settled quietly in Madrid with his family.

His performances linking the Real midfield with attack have so far been solid rather than spectacular, and he is already the fulcrum of Manuel Pellegrini’s team, the man that the other players always look for.

On Wednesday Kaka scored his first goal in the famous white shirt, a calm penalty in the 2-0 win away to Villarreal.

Pellegrini explained afterwards that Ronaldo and Kaka have his permission to decide between themselves who takes each particular penalty.

Kaka was his usual modest self after the win. “I am pleased because of the win,” he said, “but we can improve. To play as we want to will take time, but we are on the right road.”

He added that “I am pleased to have scored my first goal … But the principal thing is that the team won.”

Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, to give him his full name, is not your typical Brazilian footballer.

For a start, he comes from a comfortable middle-class background, far removed from the rags-to-riches commonplace of most Brazilian players.

Aged 18, Kaka suffered a career-threatening back injury as a result of a horrible swimming pool accident. He attributes his complete recovery to God and, together with his wife Caroline, is an active member of the “Rebirth in Christ” evangelical church.

Kaka (27) is also prominent in the “Athletes of Christ” organisation. He carries out important humanitarian work in the shanty towns of Brazil, and has been appointed by Unicef as one its global ambassadors.

As for his football, his goals this season are to help Real to end Barca’s domestic and European domination — then to guide Brazil to triumph at the World Cup finals.

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