As Florentino Perez ushered in a new era of big spending at Real Madrid little more than a year ago, the Bernabeu faithful knew very well that superstar signings and monumental presentations were about to be served up at the country’s most successful club. And judging by the way the Los Blancos’ summer went, they weren’t disappointed.

Perez didn’t waste any time working on a sequel to “Los Galacticos”, starting by recruiting Brazilian megastar and Serie A’s headline act, Ricardo Kaka. The arrival of the 2007 Ballon d’Or winner sent out several messages; the first was an indication from Florentino Perez that he is a man of his word, unlike predecessor Ramon Calderon, who promised to lure Kaka during his stint but failed to do so; the second was a declaration of intent on his part, saying that the club was once again the destination of choice for the world’s top players; and finally, it marked the arrival of Zinedine Zidane’s most adept replacement, after a series of malfunctioning experiments to replace the French legend.

As Cristiano Ronaldo adapted in next to no time in his first season at Los Blancos, things did not go quite so smoothly for Kaka though. Overall, the Brazilian’s maiden season in Spain came to be considered a failure, but there were mitigating factors: Chronic injuries and the resulting drop in form confined the former Sao Paulo man to just 25 league appearances, scoring on eight occasions and setting up another six goals; hardly numbers to cheer about considering his résumé as a former world’s best player.

This season, with Madrid’s Number 8 confined to the sidelines for a lengthy period, following an operation that repaired the torn meniscus that was unsettling him for so long, the Real Madrid hierarchy opted to reassure themselves by bringing in Germany’s newest star and World Cup sensation Mesut Ozil. The former Werder Bremen talent has enjoyed a good start to life in the Spanish capital thus far, swiftly becoming a Bernabeu fan-favourite with his dashing displays and eye-catching link-up play with his team-mates, particularly Cristiano Ronaldo and fellow new signing Angel di Maria.

With Ozil growing in his role, the German appears more and more a guaranteed starter, and with young Sergio Canales anxiously waiting for a chance, should Kaka call it quits and return to Italy, with Internazionale presumably interested in his services?

For someone whose Spanish dialogue is restricted to short greetings and small talk, Mesut Ozil expresses himself fluently on the football pitch. The Nationalmannschaft star man has been brilliant in Jose Mourinho’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, playing behind sole striker Gonzalo Higuain. A player that at first sight fits perfectly into the “young and cheap backup” category, “The Wizard of Oz” – as he has been dubbed by the Spanish media – looks nothing less than an established member of Real Madrid’s starting XI, raising questions about Kaka’s fate at the Bernabeu when the Brazilian returns to full training.

Contributing towards the uncertainty over Kaka too is Mourinho’s scheme for his squad, which necessitates some cutting-back to do: The Portuguese tactician has asked his superiors to trim his squad to 23 men. Ozil, Kaka and Canales could therefore all be vying for one starting spot, and the release of one of the threesome seems the only way to guarantee the other two enough minutes on the pitch to continue their progression. With Ozil and Canales the new arrivals and Kaka having failed to stamp his supposed superiority, the latter appears to be the most likely candidate to be discarded.

What appears to be fueling the idea of Kaka’s potential winter transfer window exit from Los Blancos is a distinct lack of official statements from the clubs involved in the matter. In a time where Zlatan Ibrahimovic ended up playing for AC Milan after a few lucrative years with cross-town rivals Inter and Sol Campbell made the point-of-no-return transition from Tottenham to Arsenal, gone are the days of the classic “I will never join them” cliché.

Questioned about the truthfulness of his club’s alleged interest in Kaka, director Marco Tronchetti Provera made it clear that the services of their former foe would be welcomed: “I would like to see Kaka play for Inter. The player we saw at Milan was great, and I would like to see him wear the Nerazzurri shirt."

While the Kaka rumour mill appears to be cranking up as Christmas approaches, a closer examination of the situations both at Real and Inter all but kills any chance of the gifted playmaker returning to Italy this year.

And while there is really no surprise in Provera’s response to the Kaka question, theoretically, would any team not welcome a player of Kaka’s pedigree with open arms?

The presence of Wesley Sneijder – regarded by many as the Beneamata’s true hero last season – and new sensation Philippe Coutinho also goes a long way to filling the attacking midfield options at the newly crowned treble champions.

So, while a transfer to Inter may at first appear to be a fine idea for all parties, it would not necessarily provide Kaka with the first team action he will soon crave and could land the Brazilian in a mirror image of his current Los Blancos predicament. It therefore remains to be seen whether the 2009 Confederations Cup winner would take the difficult challenge a move to the Nerazzurri could represent, and at a time where he is at a vital point in his career; better to bank on breaking back in at the Bernabeu.

And if it is unlikely that Kaka would swap Madrid for Italy, it is also highly doubtful that Florentino Perez would discard the third most expensive player in football history after just a single season. Having cost the Real Madrid president a whopping €68M, Kaka’s work ethic rivals that of departed club legend Raul. With the fans eager to see the Brazilian succeed, he will be granted a rare second chance by the Bernabeu crowd to impress again.

But maybe the final nail in the coffin of talk of a quick Kaka exit is the “Jose Mourinho Factor”. The former Inter supremo’s first one-on-one words on the training pitch were with the former Milan star, where he reassured him that under his tutelage, he would once again be one of the best in the world. All of Mourinho’s pre-season tactics relied heavily on Kaka, and the Portuguese is known to hold the midfielder in high regard.

Mourinho is without equal when it comes to coaxing the best out of his charges; making them find that extra ten per cent they never knew was within them. Should the Portuguese repeat his oft shown trick with Kaka, then there seems little doubt that the two-times Serie A Footballer of the Year will once again be terrorising defences – and in Spain, not Italy.


Photo courtesy: Tsutomu Takasu