Who is Kaká?
Ricardo Izecson, famously known as Kaká, is a Brazilian football legend who played as an attacking midfielder before he retired in 2017. One of the greatest footballers of the world, Kaká started his career at the age of 18, when he joined the Brazilian football club ‘São Paulo FC.’ He was part of the Brazilian squad that won the ‘FIFA World Cup’ title in 2002, before joining Italian club ‘AC Milan’ for €8.5 million in 2003. He spent most of his career with ‘AC Milan.’ His victories with this club include the win at the ‘2007 UEFA Champions League Final.’ He was also part of the ‘AC Milan’ team that finished as runners up at the ‘2005 UEFA Champions League Final.’ He left ‘AC Milan’ to join ‘Real Madrid’ for the second-highest transfer fees of €67 million, only behind Zinedine Zidane, in 2009. He helped his team win the ‘Copa del Rey’ in the 2010–2011 season and the ‘La Liga’ in 2011–2012 season. He returned to ‘AC Milan’ in 2013 but ended his contract with the club after a while. He was part of the ‘Major League Soccer’ (MLS) expansion team ‘Orlando City.’ He continued playing for ‘MLS’ until his retirement in 2017.
Childhood & Early Life
Kaká was born Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite on April 22, 1982, in Gama, Federal District, Brazil, to Bosco Izecson Pereira Leite, a civil engineer, and Simone dos Santos, an elementary-school teacher. His brother, Rodrigo, better known as Digão, is also a professional footballer.
Kakás name was a result of his younger brother’s inability to pronounce his real name, “Ricardo,” as a kid. His brother called him “CaCa,” which evolved into ‘Kaká.’
Kaká’s family moved to São Paulo when he was 7, and his love for football grew thereafter. He played in a local youth club called ‘Alphaville’ before he became part of ‘São Paulo FC,’ a hometown club. At the very beginning of his career, Kaká suffered a spinal injury that almost paralyzed him. However, Kaká made a full recovery.
He has always donated a part of his income to his church as an act of gratitude to God. He leads an active Christian life.
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He began his career at the age of 8, with ‘São Paulo FC,’ and signed a contract at the age of 15. He made 27 appearances and scored 12 goals in the 2001 season.
He also led ‘São Paulo FC’ to win the ‘Torneio Rio-São Paulo’ in 2001, the only time the club won the championship. In the next season, Kaká made 22 appearances with 10 goals and attracted the attention of a lot of European clubs.
Kaká’s sudden exposure to European clubs earned him a big deal with ‘AC Milan’ in 2003. The club signed him for a whopping €8.5 million.
He made his ‘Serie A’ debut for ‘AC Milan’ in Italy in a 1–0 win over ‘Ancona.’ He contributed 10 goals in 30 appearances for ‘AC Milan’ in the first season and earned nominations for both the ‘Ballon d’Or’ and the ‘FIFA World Player of the Year.’
In the 2004–2005 season, he helped his team win the ‘Supercoppa Italiana’ after beating ‘Lazio.’ He scored 7 goals in 36 appearances for the season and helped his team reach the ‘Champions League Final’ against ‘Liverpool.’
In the next season, he continued scoring hat-tricks in the ‘Italian Serie’ and the ‘UEFA Champions League.’ In the 2006–2007 season, he ended up becoming the top scorer, with a total of 19 goals at the ‘UEFA Champions League.’
He was also named the ‘UEFA Club Footballer of the Year’ and became part of the ‘UEFA Team of the Year’ in the same season. He was voted as 2007’s ‘IFFHS World’s Best Playmaker.’
In the 2007–2008 season, he won the ‘FIFA Club World Cup’ against the ‘Boca Juniors,’ scoring the third goal for ‘Milan’ in a 4–2 victory. He won the ‘Golden Ball’ for the best player of the tournament.
He finished his last season with ‘Milan’ with 16 goals and was nominated for the ‘FIFA World Player of the Year’ award.’ There were rumors about Kaká’s transfer from ‘Milan’ to another club.
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After a lot of confusion, it was announced that Kaká would play for ‘Real Madrid’ from 2009. He made his official league debut for ‘Real Madrid’ on August 29, 2009, in a 3–2 win over ‘Deportivo de la Coruña.’
He ended the season with 8 goals and 6 assists in the ‘La Liga’ and 9 goals with 8 assists in other games. Kaká stayed away from the game for eight months due to an injury.
He scored his first goal of the season on January 9, 2011, in a 4–2 victory over ‘Villarreal.’ He finished the season with 7 goals in 20 appearances and led his team to win the ‘Copa del Rey.’
Kaká had a remarkable start to the season, where he scored 2 goals, served 2 assists, and won a penalty. He also became the best player at the ‘Champions League Matchday.’
He finished the season with 8 goals and 14 assists. He started the 2012–2013 season by winning the ‘2012 Supercopa de España’ against ‘Barça.’
Kaká became the highest-scoring Brazilian footballer in ‘Champions League’ history after scoring in a 4–1 win against ‘Ajax.’ After scoring 29 goals and 32 assists in 120 appearances, Kaká decided to bid goodbye to ‘Real Madrid’ and joined ‘AC Milan’ again, on September 2, 2013.
He scored his 100th goal for ‘Milan’ with an opening goal against ‘Atlanta.’ He joined the ‘MLS’ expansion team ‘Orlando City’ as their first “Designated Player.”
He entered the league in 2015 and continued playing brilliantly until he received the first red card of his career in a 1–1 draw against ‘Real Salt Lake.’ He continued playing a strong game for ‘MLS’ until he announced that he would not be renewing his contract for the 2018 season.
Kaká was named the ‘Man of the Match’ in Brazil’s opening match at the ‘2006 FIFA World Cup,’ which Brazil won against Croatia, and at the ‘2009 FIFA Confederations Cup’ final against the US.
Awards & Achievements
He has received numerous club honors and individual awards throughout his career. Some of his noteworthy honors include the ‘Bola de Ouro’ (2002), the ‘Bola de Prata’ (2002), the ‘CONCACAF Gold Cup Best XI’ (2003), the ‘Serie A Footballer of the Year’ ( 2004, 2007), and the ‘Pallone d'Argento’ (2006–2007).
From 2008 to 2015, he was honored with the ‘Ballon d'Or’ (2007), the ‘FIFA World Player of the Year’ (2007), the ‘MARCA Legend Award’ (2009), and the ‘AC Milan Hall of Fame’ (2010). He was part of the ‘MLS All-Star’ on multiple occasions (2015, 2016, 2017). He also made it to the ‘Time 100,’ a list of the most influential people, in both 2008 and 2009.
Kaká married his childhood sweetheart, Caroline Lyra Celico, on December 23, 2005. Soon, they had two children: a son, Luca, and a daughter, Isabella. The couple divorced in 2015.
Kaká has been dating Brazilian model Carolina Dias since 2016.
He was the youngest UN Ambassador for the ‘World Food Programme’ at the time of his appointment.