After being officially unveiled as the first-ever Designated Player for MLS expansion side Orlando City on Tuesday morning, superstar Kaka was presented to thousands of the club’s excited fans downtown.
With a World Cup watch party set up for the USA’s hotly-anticipated last 16 clash with Belgium, a confirmed 11,692 were in attendance to see team president Phil Rawlins and co-owner Flavio Augusto da Silva introduce the Brazil legend, who had earlier spoken of his delight at signing with the Florida-based outfit.
‘They said to me that they had this dream to get a team and build an amazing team in America,’ Kaka said of his discussions with ownership. ‘So from 2012 until now we have been speaking a lot, flirting a lot until today that we signed this final contract and I'm so happy for that. It's a dream come true.
‘I've been speaking with other teams two years ago. I had the opportunities to go to New York,’ he added. ‘In the end I think God had another special thing for me in Orlando and so I'm happy because for me it's a very nice project.
‘We can build a lot of good things here in Orlando and also because Flavio is Brazilian, for the Brazilian people it's nice to have this focus now on America and American football.’
Currently playing in the US third-tier, Orlando will join MLS for the 2015 season, after being announced as the league’s 21st franchise last November, and are in the midst of building their roster for their debut campaign.
After opting out of his contract with AC Milan, Kaka is expected to be loaned out for the next six months to his former club Sao Paulo FC, who were reportedly also courting the former Ballon d’Or-winner’s signature, before returning to the USA in January for preseason training.
Having seemingly been on the decline since moving to Real Madrid from Milan in June 2009 for €65 million, the midfield playmaker experienced a bounce back 2013-14 season upon his return to the Serie A giants, scoring nine times in 37 appearances, while also netting his 100th career goal for i Rossoneri in the process.
A veteran of three World Cup campaigns, including the 2002 triumph in South Korea and Japan, there were strong calls for the 32-year-old to be brought back into the squad for this summer’s tournament, after being frozen out in recent years, but his experience of 87 caps and 29 goals was ultimately not enough to persuade former manager Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Widely considered the best player in world football at one point, with numerous accolades to his name, the signing of Kaka is clearly a huge coup for both MLS and US soccer in general, at a time when the sport’s popularity is at an all-time high.