Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite (Portuguese pronunciation: [ʁiˈkaɾdu iˈzɛksõ duˈsɐ̃tus ˈlejtʃi]; born 22 April 1982), commonly known as Kaká, is a Brazilian football midfielder who currently plays for Real Madrid C.F.and the Brazilian national team. He started his footballing career at the age of eight, when he began playing for a local club. At the time, he also played tennis, and it was not until he moved on to São Paulo FC and signed his first professional contract with the club at the age of fifteen that he chose to focus on football. In 2003 he joined A.C. Milan for a fee of €8.5 million. While at Milan, Kaká won the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 2007. In addition to his contributions on the pitch, Kaká is known for his humanitarian work. In 2004, by the time of his appointment, he became the youngest ambassador of the United Nations‘ World Food Programme.
Kaká began his career with São Paulo at the age of eight. He signed a contract at fifteen and led the São Paulo youth squad to Copa de Juvenil glory. He made his senior side debut in January 2001 and scored 12 goals in 27 appearances, in addition to leading São Paulo to its first and only Torneio Rio-São Paulo championship, in which he scored two goals in two minutes as a substitute against Botafogo in the final, which São Paulo won 2–1.
He scored 10 goals in 22 matches the following season, and by this time his performance was soon attracting attention from European clubs. Kaká made a total of 58 appearances for São Paulo, scoring 23 times.
Kaká and Brazilian President Lula.
The steady European interest in Kaká culminated in his signing with Italian club AC Milan in 2003 for a fee of €8.5 million, described in retrospect as “peanuts” by club owner Silvio Berlusconi. Within a month, he cracked the starting lineup, and his Serie A debut was in a 2–0 win over Ancona. He scored 10 goals in 30 appearances that season, as Milan won the Scudetto and the UEFA Super Cup.
Kaká was a part of the five-man midfield in the 2004–05 season, usually playing in a withdrawn role behind striker Andriy Shevchenko. He scored seven goals in 36 domestic appearances as Milan finished runner-up in the Scudetto race. Despite Milan losing the 2004–05 Champions League final to Liverpool on penalties, he was nonetheless was voted the best midfielder of the tournament.
2005–06 saw Kaká score his first hat-tricks in domestic competition. On 9 April 2006, he scored his first Rossoneri hat-trick against Chievo; all three goals were scored in the second half. The following season, he scored his first Champions League hat-trick in a 4–1 group stage win over the Belgian side Anderlecht.
Andriy Shevchenko’s departure to Chelsea for the 2006–07 season allowed Kaká to become the focal point of Milan’s offense as he alternated between the midfield and striker positions. He finished as the top scorer in the 2006–07 Champions League campaign with ten goals. One of them helped the Rossoneri eliminate Celtic in the quarter-finals on a 1–0 aggregate, and three others proved fatal for Manchester United in the semi-finals, despite Milan losing the first leg.
Kaká added the Champions League title to his trophy case for the first time when Milan defeated Liverpool on 23 May 2007. Though he went scoreless, he won a free kick that led to the first of Filippo Inzaghi‘s two goals, and provided the assist for the second. For his stellar play throughout the competition, he was voted the Vodafone Fans’ Player of the Season in a poll of over 100,000 UEFA.com visitors. On 30 August, Kaká was named by UEFA as both the top forward of the 2006–07 Champions League season and UEFA Club Footballer of the Year.
He played his 200th career match with Milan in a 1–1 home draw with Catania on 30 September, and on 5 October, he was named the 2006–07 FIFPro World Player of the Year. On 2 December 2007, Kaká became the eighth Milan player to win the Ballon d’Or, as he finished with a decisive 444 votes, long ahead of runner-up Cristiano Ronaldo. He signed a contract extension through 2013 with Milan on February 29, 2008.
Due to his contributions on and off the pitch, Time magazine named Kaká in the Time 100, a list of the world’s 100 most influential people, on 2 May.On 14 October, he cast his footprints into the Estádio do Maracanã‘s sidewalk of fame, in a section dedicated to the memory of the country’s top players.He won the honor again in 2009.
The BBC reported on 13 January 2009 that Manchester City made a bid for Kaká for over £100 million. Milan director Umberto Gandini replied that Milan would only discuss the matter if Kaká and Manchester City agreed to personal terms. Kaká initially responded by telling reporters he wanted to “grow old” at Milan and dreamed of captaining the club one day, but later said, “If Milan want to sell me, I’ll sit down and talk. I can say that as long as the club don’t want to sell me, I’ll definitely stay.”On 19 January, Silvio Berlusconi announced that Manchester City had officially ended their bid after a discussion between the clubs, and that Kaká would remain with Milan. Milan supporters had protested outside the club headquarters earlier that evening, and later chanted outside Kaká’s home, where he saluted them by flashing his jersey outside a window.
On 3 June 2009, Football Italia reported that newly-elected Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez had offered Milan a €68.5 million deal for Kaká, two days after the player had left for international duty with Brazil.Milan vice president Adriano Galliani did not deny the reports, and confirmed that he and Kaká’s father, Bosco Leite, had traveled to Mexico to meet with La Volpe. “We had lunch and spoke about Kaká. I don’t deny it. Negotiations exist, but a deal has yet to be done.”On 4 June, Galliani told Gazzetta dello Sport that financial reasons were his motive for the talks with La Volpe. “We cannot allow [Milan] to lose €70 million […] The reasons behind Kaká’s departure would be economic.” On 8 June, Milan and Real Madrid confirmed Kaká has moved to the Bernabéu on a six-year deal.
Kaká made his unofficial debut in a friendly against Toronto FC, and scored his first goal for Madrid during a preseason match against Borussia Dortmund, which Madrid won 5-0. He scored his first official goal for Real Madrid on week 5 against Villareal from a penalty kick.