“Some loves do not stop,” a statement on the Milan website read following the announcement that for the final time, Ricardo Kaka would be leaving Via Turati. Although the message was well meant, the air of finality is difficult to deny.
The rescindment of the 32-year-old’s contract ends a club-player relationship that began 11 years ago - the Brazilian a fresh-faced playmaker who was a ‘gift’ provided by Silvio Berlusconi to the Rossoneri following the club’s Champions League victory and is a story that has had twists and turns, near-comebacks and countess memorable moments.
After years spent flirting with each other through the media during Kaka’s time at Real Madrid, the former Ballon d’Or winner returned at the beginning of the 2013-14 season and brought some smiles back to a miserable San Siro in a woeful season, including a wonderful curling strike against Lazio in his first home start since his return.
There were flashes of brilliance in his second stint at Milan – a pinpoint strike against Catania from an acute angle was a finish that few others could’ve pulled off, but the moments of magic were fewer and further between.
Despite the familiar gait on the ball and the memorable grin that still shone from the playmaker’s face, the Kaka Milan sold in 2009 wasn’t the Kaka they got back in 2013. Knee surgery, four years without regular football in Madrid and age all conspired against the Brazilian, who was unable to paralyse defences with the regularity he once had.
It was perhaps another example of Adriano Galliani’s tendency to make moves with his heart rather than his head. The veteran Milan official once admitted that he wept the day he sold Kaka, and his return may have been an opportunity to exercise some personal demons for Galliani - as well as put a friendly face at the front of an unattractive season.
The relationship between the two parties remains one of mutual affection, and it is perhaps appropriate that Kaka’s last act as a Milan player is to help his club out. By consenting to a contract rescindment, Milan save themselves €4m net in wages next season - no small fee for a club as frugal as the Rossoneri and a figure that along with the expected exit of Robinho, will help replenish the squad with younger talent.
It closes the curtain on one of Italian football’s greatest foreign players and a true Milan hero. It may have been a difficult decision for many close to the Diavolo to accept another exit so soon after the second arrival, but it was the best choice at the right time. Sport has no time for nostalgia, and Milan have rightly -albeit belatedly - recognised that success takes precedent over sentiment.
“I am a Milan fan, and I will be a Milan fan forever,” Kaka told the Milan channel following the announcement.
“I hope that I will soon be able to congratulate Galliani and Milan on winning Serie A and the Champions League.”
Although those objectives are far away from Milan as things stand, with Kaka gone the Rossoneri can stop gazing into the past and begin building to the future.