Point/Counterpoint: Why Kaká Won't Be Making an Impact This Season

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13: Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho speaks with forward Kaka #8 during a training session on the campus of UCLA on July 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Real Madrid will play their next friendly soccer match against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

As we head into the final month of the pre-season, Real Madrid seem to have concluded the bulk of their transfer dealings. A new striker may yet be signed (Mourinho has hinted at the acquisition of last season’s loan star Emmanuel Adebayor, while Neymar looks unlikely to arrive this summer at least) and one or two players may depart (Lass wants a move to the EPL while Gago has his heart set on a loan to Boca Juniors) but the squad is fundamentally what Mourinho will have available to work with for the long season ahead.

Real Madrid has an embarrassment of riches in its squad, with a particularly sumptuous feast of options in midfield as the likes of Alonso, Khedira, Özil, Granero, Pepe and di María vie for a spot with new additions Coentrão, Callejón, Sahin and Altintop. The one player I didn’t mention, 2007 Ballon d’Or recipient and €65m man Kaká, has been the subject of many heated debates in the Managing Madrid locker room over the last few weeks, as we debate his merits and attempt to puzzle out what role his mercurial talents might play in the current Madrid setup. I personally am rather undecided on the Kaká question, but as an exercise, I am going to argue the anti-Kaká side, and Gabe will present the pro-Kaká arguments in a follow-up piece.

There are plenty of reasons not to get rid of Kaká - he still brings in the green, sponsors still love him, he’s on the cover of FIFA 11 and probably 12, and we will never get back even a small fraction of what we paid for him - and that’s not what I’m advocating. So what are the reasons why Kaká won’t be making a big impact on Real Madrid’s 2011-2012 campaign?

Injuries

Kaká’s final season with Milan was blighted with niggling injuries, as was his first season with Madrid. He fought through severe knee pain during the 2010 World Cup before Mourinho commissioned a medical study from Real Madrid’s staff after his return that determined that he required urgent surgery on his meniscus to fix a chronic problem that had either been concealed or missed by Milan’s doctors.

That kept him out of contention for eight months, and although Kaká has shown some positive flashes since his return at the end of last season, he hasn’t looked back to his best. Kaká is already twenty-nine, which is not terribly old for a midfielder, but it may be too late for him to recover fully from such a protracted and serious injury.

Better options

Mesut Özil, the young Turkish-German playmaker, was a revelation last season after arriving from Werder Bremen as a replacement for Kaká. The bug-eyed wonder made Madrid fans forget all about the Brazilian with his silky one-touch passing and sublime through passes. We know Kaká doesn’t play well with another playmaker beside him, as Brazil found out in trying to play him with Ronaldinho, so should he displace a man who inarguably is in much better form? That would be unfair to Özil, who seems to be the future of Madrid’s offense.

Wrong man for the job

Kaká to my mind is something of a rare breed nowadays, an old-fashioned playmaker of a type that no longer really exists. He likes to occupy the central area in the final third and play the killer passes or receive the ball and take the shot himself, either from outside the area or after ghosting into the penalty box from deep. He doesn’t drift into channels or switch places in a fluid offense like Özil, and he won’t pop up on the left before delivering a killer cross, like Benzema. Going back to Gabe’s article on possible formations, there’s not much of a space for a player like Kaká, who only really thrives when a team is built around him, as it was at Milan.

There, he often played as a trequartista behind two forwards in a diamond formation or as a second striker in a 4-4-2 (but with two deep-lying midfielders behind him in Ambrosini and Pirlo). In a 4-3-3, Kaká can’t play as deep as the central midfielders are required to, and in a 4-2-3-1 the central player in the trident needs to be more mobile. It’s possible that he could "do the job" in the latter formation, but I think Özil is more flexible and more suited to the position. Even if Kaká does recover some of his old form, he’s unlikely to be a regular starter because he just doesn’t fit into the kind of tactical systems that Mourinho prefers.

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