It looks as if the highest paid player in Major League Soccer will actually be playing in Major League Soccer this spring. Orlando City's Brazilian midfielder suited for his last home match with São Paulo FC this past weekend, and he'll play his last match for the club this Sunday in Recife.
It was clearly an emotional evening for Kaká, as fans reportedly cheered for him throughout the match.
"It was emotional...my teammates congratulating me and the fans applauding. The week has been very special," Kaka said.
São Paulo is a special team for the former AC Milan man, as he began his youth soccer there at the young age of eight. He signed his first professional contract with them at 15, and played his first senior team match there as well before moving on to clubs like AC Milan and Real Madrid. Orlando City fans will certainly be glad to hear that his time there is coming to an end though and he's set to join the new MLS squad.
That wasn't necessarily something Orlando City fans should have taken for granted. It's becoming more and more likely each day that NYCFC signing Frank Lampard won't be joining the team in January. As recently as October, Kaká was non-committal, responding on rumors of an extended loan saying, "The time to talk will be the end of the season, not now."
Sources within Orlando City have held firm that it was always the plan for Kaká to report to Orlando in January, and it appears there will be no last minutes surprises. This is great news for City. If they hope to have Kaká as the main conduit of the offense in 2015, it's essential that he's able to participate in the training camps and preseason friendlies.
And it will be a busy preseason at that. Orlando City is set to travel to Brazil in late January for a series of yet-to-be-announced friendlies against Brazilian teams, presumably including Kaká's Sao Paulo. From there, City will return to training in Orlando, before heading to Charleston, S.C. for the Carolina Challenge Cup on Feb. 21.
Soccer, more so than most sports, is a game that is built around a mutual understanding of your teammates and a sixth sense for where they will be. Set plays make up a minor part of the game, and there are no pre-planned pass routes or timeouts to draw up plays. It would be difficult, even for a player of Kaká's stature, to step in and effectively lead an offense without first building chemistry with his teammates.
Kaká will certainly be top of mind for Coach Adrian Heath and President Phil Rawlins this week, as they'll look to continue to build the team around him in the MLS Expansion Draft on Dec. 10. Rumors should also begin to ramp up regarding the signing of a second Designated Player to complement Kaká leading into the January transfer window.