Competitive fires burn inside Kaka
Brazilian star has a tremendous will to win
Born: April 22, 1982, in Brasilia, Brazil
Position: Midfielder, forward
Nickname: Born Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, he was given the nickname Kaka by his younger brother Rodrigo, who had trouble pronouncing "Ricardo."
Clubs played for: Kaka cut his teeth in his native Brazil with Sao Paulo FC, drawing rave reviews for his stellar performances. After two years, Europe's top clubs came knocking on Sao Paulo's door, but it was AC Milan who signed him in 2003. It was in Italy where Kaka shot to fame, helping the Rossoneri win the league championship in his first season and the 2007 Champions League final. He was also named FIFA world player of the year in 2007, but with nothing left to prove in Italy, he signed with Real Madrid in the summer of 2009 for a whopping $102-million transfer fee.
International career: He made his national team debut in January 2002, and was a member of the Brazilian team that won the World Cup that same year. Kaka served as team captain at the 2003 Gold Cup (Brazil lost in the final) and scored in the final of the 2005 Confederations Cup to help Brazil beat Argentina. After failing to impress at the 2006 World Cup, Kaka rebounded by being named tournament MVP of the 2009 Confederations Cup, as Brazil defeated the U.S. in the final.
Why is he so special? Kaka ranks as one of the best players in the world. His driving runs, sublime ball control and perfect passes help him unlock even the tightest of defences. A driving force in midfield, he is a brilliant playmaker who has an eye for goal and can break open a game in an instant.
His most famous moment: Scoring three goals against Manchester United in the semifinals of the 2006-07 Champions League to send AC Milan through to the final.
He said it: "I want to keep winning with Madrid. I want to do well in the Champions League. Every opportunity that presents itself, my main objective is to conquer and be victorious."
What they're saying about him: "He has a natural hunger and that makes him different. Just like Michael Jordan.... These two are people who have built a sense of competitiveness and it allows them to stay at the highest level longer than normal." - Jorge Valdano, Real Madrid director general
Here's an interesting fact: Kaka was a member of the Brazilian team that won the 2002 World Cup, but he only played 25 minutes (in a first-round game against Costa Rica) in the entire tournament.