Kaka To Orlando City: A Simple Affair

The months-long negotiation comes to a gloriously easy conclusion
by Chris Kimball   |   Thursday, July 03, 2014

Purple Pride – column on Orlando City SC (OCSC) & the Orlando & Central Florida area soccer scene.

Those of us who spend too much time thinking about mundane things like player contract negotiations tend to find creative ways of making simple things complicated.

It's not satisfactory (or newsworthy) if things move in a generally positive direction towards their ultimate fruition. In a world where this morning's tweet is tonight's old news we need bumps in the road in order to keep the story churning. And so we mull and dissect and read between lines.

So it was with regard to Kaká's perceived topsy-turvy contract year that ultimately landed him at Orlando City SC as the team's first designated player.

It was a journey which by media accounts was fraught with indecision, entangled alliances, unrealized expectations, and so on, and so forth. And yet, to speak to the man himself at long last, it now seems possible his decision to come to the New World was made as matter-of-factly as whether or not to wear a tie for his introductory press conference. For the record: no tie.

To say Kaka’s decision to join Orlando City was made easily is not to imply it was an easy decision. Nor would I suggest the deal wasn't complicated or occasionally in peril. When millions of dollars are on the move you can be sure somebody will find a way to stick his foot out. But for the man, for Kaká himself, it was a simple matter of following a dream. 

"I always said I'd like to play in America one day," Kaká reminds us. "In the last few years I spoke with Los Angeles and New York [Red Bulls] but we couldn't reach a final agreement. I'm very close friends with Flavio [da Silva, Orlando City majority owner] and I thought the moment to come had arrived. Orlando was the project I wanted to be part of."

I didn't count but I'd guess Kaká used the word "project” 5 or 6 times during his conversation with reporters. This single word goes to the heart of his motivation. When you've been the absolute best at your profession and achieved everything conceivable, it's normal to search for new challenges.

Purple Pride – column on Orlando City SC (OCSC) & the Orlando & Central Florida area soccer scene.

Anyone who sees Kaka moving from Serie A to MLS as a step down has missed the point. Constantly pushing one's limits is precisely what drives the good to be great. Kaka could have stayed in Italy or gone home to Brazil and nobody one would have questioned those choices. But what would he have achieved in those places that he hadn't already achieved?

"Something special has been born [in the US] for soccer," Kaká points out. "I want to be part of it. We can build a lot of good things here...I want to do something special for my career and for this team."

Listening to Kaka it's immediately evident that this man is not a diva. In the modern sports landscape his polite, gracious demeanor belies his championship résumé. He is, therefore, the perfect fit as Orlando City's first designated player and biggest brand ambassador.

As an organization, Orlando City has shown that big dreams needn't be accompanied by big egos. One can tick off the boxes of achievement without ticking off everyone else along the way. The reason Kaka ultimately chose Orlando over his other suitors came down to this shared sensibility. When you're close friends with the team's owner that tends to happen.

In the end, after all the months of speculation and rumors, the Kaká to Orlando "saga" turned out to be a simple affair among forthright people. He chose Orlando City not for the money, not for the bright lights, not for notoriety, but for the chance to build something new, with people he respects, in a region where his family would be happy.

Speaking about his arrival in Orlando the previous day, Kaká seemed genuinely touched that a crowd was awaiting him at the airport playing drums and singing songs. So, one of the world's most celebrated athletes, a man with almost 20 million followers on Twitter, is surprised that 100 people turn up at an airport to see him. It may seem unbelievable but why complicate it?

NEXT UP: July 3 — Orlando City SC vs. Wilmington Hammerheads, Legion Stadium, Wilmington, NC, 7:30 p.m. EST. YouTube live stream.

Chris KIMBALL

Nationality:
USA
College:
William & Mary
Club Domestic:
Orlando City
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Christopher is editor of Orlando Soccer Daily, covering the beautiful game for central Florida. A retired music exec turned soccer fanatic, he landed in Florida via Paris & Boston. When not working he's usually chasing after his 2 sons or suffering after
CHRIS'S SPONSORS