Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, better known as Kaká, is one of the best paid soccer players in history. In 2007, he received the Golden Ball award from France Football magazine, and, that same year, he was elected best player in the world by FIFA.
Different from most Brazilian soccer players, Kaká had a privileged childhood, growing up in a wealthy family. He was discovered at the age of 18 by São Paulo and soon embarked on a successful career. In 2002, he made his debut on Brazil’s national team and defended the country in the 2002 World Cup. He played only 20 minutes and left the tournament with the championship title.
In 2003, he was hired by Milan for US$ 8.5 million, a relatively low amount for this rowing talent. Within two months, his shirt was already one of the team’s top sellers and Kaká became an idol. In his first season he won the Italian championship. Guerin Sportivo elected him the player in the tournament that gave Milan the Italian title after a 5-year dry spell. Kaká scored ten goals in 30 games.
In the 2006 World Cup, Kaká was part of Brazil’s “magic foursome”, together with Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Ronaldo and Adriano. He began the competition as the star of the selection, scoring the winning goal against Croatia in the opening game. However, he didn’t perform as well as expected and couldn’t prevent the loss to France that eliminated Brazil from the competition.
After the World Cup, Kaká continued at Milan, despite numerous offers from Real Madrid. After the departure of Ukrainian player Shevchenko, he became the team’s star player. In 2007, he received the Golden Ball award from France Football magazine, and was elected best player in the world by FIFA.
Halfway through the season, Kaká received a tempting offer from Manchester City, worth €150 million. He refused the largest offer ever in the history of soccer and remained at Milan, helping the team earn a spot in the Champions League. However, everybody knew it was just a matter of time before the Brazilian midfielder would leave. Confirming these predictions, Kaká signed a 65 million transfer to Real Madrid in 2009. Kaká remained one of the top players of the Brazilian team, coached by Dunga, but didn’t perform well in the 2010 World Cup tournament.
Watch some of Kaka’s plays in this video