When you talk about Orlando City, there’s one name that inevitably comes to mind — the club’s first ever Designated Player, Kaká. Today, he announced that he will not return to the club after the 2017 season, opting to turn down the club’s offer of an extension. The announcement came at a press conference at Orlando City Stadium this afternoon and according to the Orlando Sentinel’s Alicia DelGallo, the Brazilian’s run with the Lions will come to an end after Sunday’s home match vs. Columbus Crew SC — he will not travel to Philadelphia, although he’ll hang around for the friendly vs. Puerto Rico.
“As you all know, my contract with Orlando City ends this year,” Kaká said. “We’ve been discussing the renewal the last two months, I think. And after that, I’ve been thinking a lot and my final decision is not to renew my contract with this club. Now I’m here to announce that my first cycle as an Orlando City soccer player is going to finish at the end of this season.”
No details of the offer were given, but it was widely believed to include a significant pay cut for the midfielder for next year — something Paul Tenorio reported while the presser was still ongoing.
Kaka opted not to sign 1-year contract offer. Was significant decrease. Will be interested to see how much budget OCSC has for that DP spot.— Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio) October 11, 2017
Club Majority Owner Flavio Augusto da Silva confirmed that the contract offer was not a DP deal.
“While this was a very personal decision for Kaká —one that had nothing to do with money and more about his family — that it was not in the club’s plans to offer Kaká a level of contract at the Designated Player level,” he said.
Beyond finishing his contract with Orlando City, Kaká offered no hint of what’s next for him.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank you, everybody — Flavio, Alex [Leitao]. To be a part of the project since the beginning...they trusted that I could be an important piece of this project,” Kaká said. “And so I want to thank them. I want to thank all my teammates the last three years — coaches, staff, everyone here that works for Orlando City, the community and supporters for everything. The announcement for today is for that and just for that.”
While his time in the City Beautiful is coming for an end for what he termed his “first cycle,” the Brazilian didn’t rule out a return.
“The door is always open for me and I love this club and these guys and to be here,” he said. “We never know what can happen. Maybe I can come back as an ambassador or coach or GM. I hope in the future we can cross paths again.”
Upon reports that Kaká was having physical issues with recovery, the Brazilian downplayed that as a reason for this decision.
“Pain wasn't and won't be the base of my decision,” he said. “And even for the future it won't be for the next step of my career. Just this moment, the only thing I know right now is that I will not be an Orlando City player next season. This is the only certain I know”
“[Kaká’s] cycle ends with us, for me in particular, its a very different feeling and different moment,” said CEO Alex Leitao. “The cycle started 16 years ago. We met when he was 19 years old, a very talented guy and character. I thought he would be a great football player and professional. Fortunate enough and an honor that he joined us for this project.”
Da Silva and Leitao both thanked Kaká for three years on this project and wished him the best of luck in his future.
Leitão confirmed that Orlando City has already been looking at its options and he will get together with General Manager Niki Budalic and Head Coach Jason Kreis on what is best for the club moving forward.
Kaká, 35, lately has been a divisive topic for Orlando City fans. His league-leading salary $7.167 million dollar contract and valuable DP slot has been much up for debate as the team could look to utilize these assets to better improve a Lions side that has been wildly inconsistent and lacking results in three seasons.
His past three seasons have seen a steady increase in matches missed and lack of production as age continues to creep on him. Just recently in an interview, Kaká noted his lack of recovery as a contributing factor to why the game has been more difficult for him this season. In each of his seasons he has a seen a dip in starts: 28, 23, and currently 17 while seeing a career MLS-low in goals this season, with six.
Kaká by Year
Kaká is definitely up there with many of the greats as he’s done just about everything you can with World Cup, Champions League, Confederations Cup, Primera and Serie A titles to his credit. He capped it all off by earning FIFA’s World Player of the Year in 2007 as a member of AC Milan.
Catch Kaká’s final MLS match this Sunday in Orlando City Stadium at 5 p.m. against the Columbus Crew and cheer on the captain one last time. It’s also the last opportunity to use The Mane Land discount for tickets.
Here’s a look back at everything he’s done for Orlando City: