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Kaka: The Game That Forged a Legend

Kaka, now 34 years old, will not be playing the ‘beautiful game’ for much longer. Without the Brazilian midfield maestro, club football will be far poorer for his absence.

For instance, nobody can forget how, with Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil as teammates, his single-handed destruction of Ajax put Real Madrid on course for a perfect Champions League group stage return of 18 points in 2011.

Although Real Madrid did not win the Champions League on that occasion, current football betting trends indicate Kaka's old club is the rampant favourite to prevail in 2017. Much of their present standing, as Champions League favourites at around 2/1 with bet365, can be attributed to the example set by Kaka, alongside said teammates, during that era.

As the proverbial sun sets on a stellar silverware-laden career spanning three continents, now is as good a time as any to remember some of Kaka's greatest games. Although we are all spoilt for choice, there is one game above all others that arguably turned Kaka from boy to man overnight...

Milan Maul Mancs

The hand of fate drew AC Milan with Manchester United in the 2007 Champions League semi-finals. After going down 3-2 at Old Trafford, the tie – and a date with 2005 winners Liverpool – was finely poised for AC Milan.

With Andrea Pirlo and Clarance Seedorf in tow, Kaka was able to dominate the central midfield area, and make the likes of Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick look simply amateurish. By now Milan’s MVP, Kaka obliged in opening the scoring after just eleven minutes, reacting with expert precision to Clarence Seedorf’s headed knockdown. It was his tenth goal of a stellar Champions League campaign.

Two further goals followed, from Seedorf and Alberto Gilardino, without any response from the visiting Red Devils. Subsequently, La Rossoneri went through 5-3 on aggregate.

His Finest Hour?

To put this result into context, United boasted a goalkeeper, Edwin van der Sar, who would later break the English record for the longest period without conceding a goal. By contrast, Milan keeper Dida was at that time enduring a poor run of form. As such, with the away goals rule in mind, few could have blamed the hosts for playing a defensive, patient game in which they would strike first and then – to use the jocular – park the bus.

Not a bit of it. Kaka’s relentless assault of a shaky United backline caused disruption from the very first minute, when the Brazilian flashed a teasing through-ball across goal. Seedorf then tested van der Sar with a rasping drive that was tipped over the bar. Kaka’s early endeavour had set the tone of the match, and put AC Milan on the road to redemption, atoning for their 2005 Istanbul capitulation with a 2-1 win over Liverpool in the Athens final three weeks later.

Although Kaka will not be gracing a pitch for much longer, it will be by the grace of the God he so ardently believes in that his football career will continue, in its already rich and wholesome way, for many years after his retirement.