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Kaká Potentially Puts Orlando City in a Tough Spot Heading into the Off-Season

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Kaká said he wants to play next season in Orlando, and it’s already a complicated situation for the club this off-season.

MLS: Orlando City SC at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

When a star Designated Player says he wants to remain with a club when his contract expires, typically there is little pause from that club in attempting to bring him back, but with Orlando City the case might be a little bit different.

The team’s captain, Kaká, entered the final year of his contract this season with his future beyond the 2017 campaign still very much up in the air, and with nine games left this season the Brazilian midfielder told reporters at training on Wednesday that his desire is to continue playing in 2018 with Orlando City.

“That’s my ideal principle. My first idea is to continue here, renew with Orlando, but I’m still focused on this year and on what we can do,” said Kaká in Spanish, via the Orlando Soccer Journal.

This puts Orlando City in a tough position moving forward.

Kaká has been the highest paid player in Major League Soccer since joining the league with Orlando in 2015, but his performances have kind of been a mixed bag to this point. He’s appeared in 69 games for the Lions and has totaled 22 goals and 22 assists over the last three seasons, all of which have included selections to the MLS All-Star team. But he’s also spent a large chunk of games sidelined due to various injuries, a sign of Father Time catching up to the 35-year-old.

When he’s healthy and on the field, he’s been nothing if not productive for Orlando City. The biggest problem has been fielding the right talent around him to really be in a position to utilize him best.

His $7 million-per-year price tag has plenty to do with what he also brings the club off the field as well — a global exposure, ticket and merchandise sales, and TV ratings.

That’s what makes this tough for Jason Kreis and General Manager Niki Budalic.

If Orlando City does make an honest attempt to bring back the former World Player of the Year, at what price will it be? It’s hard to imagine Kaká suddenly taking enough of a pay cut to fall below the DP threshold, or even close enough to that where Orlando could use Targeted Allocation Money to bring him down to that level.

Okay, so now let’s say he lands somewhere in the reasonable range of $2-3 million a year — this isn’t an actual negotiation number, this is just reasonable speculation. Kaká turns 36 early next season, and, even though he shows some gas left in the tank from time to time, he’s not anywhere close to the same player he was during his prime in Europe. His better moments this season have seen him coming off of the bench in the second half or any time before the 70th minute, where the legs begin to fall off during most of his starts.

If you pay him too much, Kreis is almost forced to continue playing him, as has been the case this season, and wait another season to get younger in the midfield. But also, if he reduces the Brazilian’s role, that’s too much payroll to have wasted on the bench.

“There has been discussion, for sure,” Budalic said in an exclusive interview on the Mane Land PawedCast this week. “Our club has a great deal of respect for Kaká and what he’s accomplished here. It’s a complicated situation that we also have to take into account both sides, and I think there’s a genuine and honest discussion happening right now to see what makes sense and what works for everyone.”

The driving force for a deal happening could come down to the club’s ownership, which Kaká is close with. But either way, just as Budalic said, it’s a complicated situation for Orlando City as it prepares to head into another eventful winter.