On Saturday night at the Citrus Bowl, the New York Red Bulls will take on Orlando City S.C. and their star midfielder Kaka, a Brazilian World Cup winner and one of the greatest players of this Century. But rewind a few years. It could have been Kaka in the red and white of the Red Bulls and not the purple kit of Orlando had a deal to land the Brazilian superstar been reached.
That Kaka had long been rumored to MLS is one thing but it very nearly came to reality that he would call Red Bull Arena his home. The club very nearly landed one of the most talented players in the world (Kaka was playing for Real Madrid at the time).
In the summer of 2012, a league source tells Metro that members of Red Bull management met with representation for Kaka in Spain on several occasions. The meetings were serious, the source said, with the upper echelons of MLS including commissioner Don Garber fully on board with the idea of bringing the then 30-year old attacker to play alongside Thierry Henry.
The move made sense on multiple levels. At the time, the Red Bulls were spending money on stars like Henry as well as Mexican national team defender Rafa Marquez. Kaka would have helped fill Red Bull Arena and sell energy drinks globally as one of the most recognizable faces in the world. It just seemed perfect: Kaka wanted to come to New York and there was an ambitious MLS club waiting to make him a focal point of the team.
The deal being discussed would have had Kaka with the Red Bulls for five seasons, with the Brazilian coming over immediately in the summer of 2012 to join the team. The salary offered by the team at that time was believed to be around $7 to $8 million per year, according to the source.
Currently with Orlando, Kaka is making $6.6 million per season, according to last year's numbers released by the MLS Player's Union.
It came close to happening, the source said, but the contract ended up getting bogged down and never happened. Instead, the Red Bulls moved on and signed Tim Cahill from Everton, bringing on board the Australian international. Cahill would have a highly productive 2013 as he spearheaded the team to the Supporters Shield, the mark for the best regular season finish in MLS.
But Cahill would eventually demand a larger contract and, coupled with a dip in form, would lead to his exodus following the 2014 season.
That Kaka would have been in the middle of his contract with MLS and the Red Bulls this season will be underscored this weekend when the Brazilian will don his No. 10 jersey and dazzle the crowd in Orlando with his still tremendous skill set.