Kaka rejection leaves City's plans in ruins

Milan fans' demonstration helps sway Brazilian and end hopes of world record move
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The Independent Football

Manchester City's audacious pursuit of Kaka is over after both clubs revealed last night that discussions on the prospective £91m deal had been terminated.

Though Manchester City declared that they had pulled out of negotiations as there was little chance of a deal being done, Milan presented the decision as the player's, indicating that he simply had not wanted to join City.

Kaka told Italian TV: "All the messages coming my way said to chose with my heart and at the end that's what the choice was. It was absolutely not [about money]. At the end what counted was my history. My family ties are where my heart really was."

On a night of high drama, Italy's Sky Italia channel was reporting the deal had been done when Silvio Berlusconi, the club's owner, telephoned in to say that he had been told by the club's vice president, Adriano Galliani, just before 10pm British time, that Kaka had indicated he would not sign.

The news is a desperate blow to City's ambitions to quickly build themselves into a world force, the hiring of a marquee name in this transfer window supposedly the trigger for more stars being lured this summer under the business model they were working on.

The club's executive chairman Garry Cook presented it as City's decision. "Whilst Manchester City Football Club has an obvious interest in world-class players of the quality of Kaka, we owe it to our fans that such a transfer must work on every level; commercially, financially, in terms of results on the field and within Manchester City's broader community."

But the prevailing view in Italy is that Kaka was overwhelmed by the support he has received from Milan fans in the past 36 hours – there was a vigil outside his home yesterday – and that this might have cemented the doubts he is believed to have harboured all along. His father's arrival at his side yesterday might also have been significant.

In an emotional call to the Processo di Biscardi show, Berlusconi said: "When I heard he preferred to stay, that he hadn't thought about losing a chance for a higher salary and that he put the values of the club, friendship and fans affection above all else, I said, 'Come on,' and we hugged."

Having made it quite clear the club was prepared to sell, the Italian Prime Minister had also been gauging fans' response. "We offered the player the chance to consider the offer... but he has higher values," he added. "Money is not everything for Kaka. There are things more important than money. It was my intervention but also his."

City had indicated earlier in the day that Cook had been by no means certain of meeting the player when he and Simon Pearce, Sheikh Mansour Al-Nahyan's personal envoy, headed to Milan for a first day's talks with Bosco Leite, Kaka's father, who had arrived from Brazil. It had been Cook's hope to sell the City "project" strongly enough to progress to a second round of talks, later this week, with the player himself. City manager Mark Hughes, at the club's winter training camp, believed to be in southern Europe, was awaiting a call which might have drawn him into the talks, had they progressed well.

But a group of about 500 fans protested outside Milan's offices, chanting "Don't sell Kaka" and flares were lit. Later, about 50 fans moved toward Kaka's home, chanting, "Stay with us, Ricardo", to which the 26-year-old replied by approaching a window with a Milan jersey in hand and beat his hand three times on his heart – his customary goalscoring celebration.

Though City have completed the £14m deal to bring Craig Bellamy to Eastlands and the £18m deal for Hamburg's Nigel de Jong is as good as done too, it became clear yesterday that a figure of £30m+ may be required to bring in Roque Santa Cruz from Blackburn Rovers.

Lines of communication between the two clubs have remained open since City's £16m bid was rejected two weeks ago, but the message Cook and his managing director Paul Aldridge have received is that Rovers do not believe they can find a replacement for Santa Cruz and that, with relegation expected to remain a threat until next spring, he is not for sale.

It would seem that only a knock-out bid way beyond the parameters expected for a player like Santa Cruz is capable of changing Rovers' mind, with Sam Allardyce's opinion on the subject apparently hardening as he has got to know and like the Paraguayan. The feeling from Ewood is that Santa Cruz does not, as yet, seem agitated about Rovers' desire to hold on to him for four months more. At least one other Premier League club are understood to have inquired after Santa Cruz this month. Allardyce said yesterday it would take £40m to buy him.