Kaka shows flashes of old magic to push himself into World Cup consideration
The midfield playmaker is back at AC Milan after a difficult spell at Real Madrid
Thursday 20 February 2014
He may not quite have the explosive acceleration of old, yet Kaka showed against Atletico Madrid that the old magic is still there and he could play a role for Brazil at the World Cup if selected.
The former World Player of the Year's performance on Wednesday suggested that Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who has not picked Kaka for a year, could give him a place in the squad, even if he is not a regular starter.
When Kaka returned to AC Milan in August after four unhappy years at Real Madrid, it was seen as something of a gamble by Milan and an attempt to win back fans who have seen a succession of big names leave the club in the last two years.
A thigh sprain in his very first match added to the feeling that the 31-year-old, plagued by a variety of nagging injuries during his time at Real Madrid, would spend most of his time in Milan's already crowded treatment room.
Fortunately, it has not worked out that way at all.
Despite being thrown into a team in transition and a club in disarray, Kaka has scored six goals and produced five assists in all competitions for Milan, who are Italy's only survivors in the Champions League.
If it were not for Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Thibault Courtois's fingertips, television stations worldwide would have spent Thursday replaying a goal every bit as stunning as Zlatan Ibrahimovic's effort against Bayer Leverkusen.
In the 15th minute, Kaka spun onto Adel Taarabt's pass in the corner of the penalty area and curled a left-foot shot towards the top corner which Courtouis tipped onto the bar.
Playing just behind striker Mario Balotelli, Kaka always looked capable of unlocking an uncompromising Atletico defence and was close again with another fine effort when he curled the ball onto the roof of the net from a difficult angle.
There was another vintage moment on the hour when he collected a pass around 30 metres from goal, drifted effortlessly between two defenders and toe-poked the ball just wide from outside the penalty area.
So far, it has not been enough to impress Scolari, who has not selected him since the friendlies against Italy and Russia in March last year.
Somewhat strangely, Scolari suggested that Kaka had not done enough defensive work against the Russians.
"Kaka's performance was what we expected, but the most important that I wanted him to do was to come back and mark the Russian number eight, who was dictating the rhythm of the game," Scolari said after the game.
Brazil seemed to have little need for Kaka when they won the Confederations Cup in June but since then, things have not gone so well for Scolari who has seen a number of attacking players suffer injury problems.
Neither the player nor Brazil have ruled out a last-minute recall, even though he was again overlooked for next month's friendly against South Africa.
"I'm doing my utmost to make sure I don't miss this event," Kaka said on Monday. "We'll see if I'm on the list in May."
"We consider all players, some more than others," Scolari told reporters in Brazil on Wednesday, adding that he would not be pressured. "Everyone lobbies for one player or the other."
But with Brazil likely to face massed defences in most games, having Kaka around on the bench could prove an invaluable option for Scolari, both for his experience, moment of inspiration and ability to carve out chances in the tightest of corners.
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