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The one that got away: Kaka and Manchester City

“The situation messed me up…” were the words of one of the greatest players ever when he was linked to Manchester City.

The Sky Blues were chasing just about every player worth mentioning when money flood into the club during the 2008/09 season and AC Milan star Kaka was at the top of their list. Indeed, like a desperate child in a candy shop, Manchester City eagerly stuck their hand in every jar to extract the contents they had been deprived of for so many years and in doing so became one of the strongest clubs in European football.

Kaka – 2008

Speaking to FourFourTwo, the former star recounted the time City made contact in January 2009: “It looked like a new, exciting challenge and a new chapter for me, but it had all come out of nowhere, and very quickly. Soon I started to feel confused and anxious. The situation messed me up.”

I was quite agitated and emotionally shaken. I remember playing in a home game against Fiorentina at San Siro right in the middle of the negotiation period, and the whole situation being on my mind during the game,” adding, “I can remember the Milan supporters screaming at me, ‘Don’t sell yourself, Kaka. Don’t sell yourself, Kaka.’”

Of course, Manchester City is a global brand nowadays, with plenty of world-class players, but the same could hardly be said for when they were donning Georgios Samaras, Sun Jihai, Benjani and Nedum Onuoha. This represented a huge emotional investment for the player: a genuine jump into the unknown.

“I honestly wasn’t thinking of going anywhere else. The club, the city, the country, its people – there wasn’t a single problem with my life,” he revealed when discussing how he’d settled in Italy.

“People will naturally read that and wonder: ‘So why even consider moving to England?’ The answer is simply because Milan accepted an offer for me. When that happens, it changes everything. If Milan had rejected that bid, it would have been the end of the matter.

… But if your own club is saying, ‘Why not?’ then your thinking starts to change. And that’s exactly what happened with me.”

Kaka discussed how the negations had come down to the finer deals and small print before he ultimately pulled the plug announcing: “‘You can tell them that I’m not going for now. Tell them we’ll see what happens in the future. My decision is to stay with Milan. That’s my final call.’”

As we all know Real Madrid secured his signature at the end of the campaign (as per BBC Sport) months after City had failed in their pursuit, and he went on to spend four seasons at the club, rarely recalling the kind of form that had earned him a Ballon d’Or in 2007. A single La Liga title later, he returned to Milan before ending his time in Europe for the MLS and Orlando City where he retired.

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