Kaka: Brazil's Mr. Perfect
© AFP

Brazil is a conveyor belt that produces brilliant talents. Following in the footsteps of Romario, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho is Ricardo Izecson Santos Leite.

Kaka, as he is better known, is the embodiment of elegance, a player who exudes pure class. His ability on the ball, his ability to dominate games, to see openings and to make the right decisions - these are all, quite simply, of the highest possible order.

Kaka's background is far from typical. He hails not from the poverty of the favelas, but from a middle-class family, with the comforts and educational background that this entails. While his father Bosco, an engineer by profession, has looked after his career and handled all of his contract negotiations, Kaka himself set out a plan for his professional development which he has pursued, irresistibly, with singular determination, leaving little room for chance.

Kaka is the son-in-law that every mother dreams of. While he never dreamt that he would one day become the best player in the world, he always set out to be number one.

Born in the capital Brasilia in 1982, Kaka grew up in Sao Paulo after his parents moved there when he was seven. Like all kids of his age, he played football and showed an aptitude for the game early on. However, back then his enthusiasm for the game was nothing beyond the ordinary. It was only when he turned 15 that he decided he wanted to make a career for himself in football, although even then he did not give up his studies.

However, three years later, his ambitions almost suffered a fatal blow when he fractured a vertebra in his spine following a swimming pool accident. "At that moment, I realised that I had been saved by the hand of God," he wrote in his diary. Since then, he has been unwavering in his religious faith, and after every latest feat on the football pitch, he never fails to acknowledge his debt to God by raising his arms to the skies.

Kaka's professional career has unfolded at a remarkable pace. In 2001, he found himself in the Sao Paulo youth team. By the age of 18 he was already being promoted to the senior team and on 31 January 2002, he made his national team debut for Brazil against Bolivia. By that stage, it was clear that nothing was going to stop him.

Three years on, former Sao Paulo and AC Milan star Leonardo, who had been following Kaka's development closely, convinced him and his family that he should move to Italy, which he did in the summer of 2003. By this stage, he had already won the FIFA World Cup™ with Brazil in 2002, and his 48 goals in 131 appearances for Sao Paulo provided a clear indication of the scale of his talent.

Once in Europe, he required no time at all to find his feet. But then Kaka always manages to make even the most difficult challenges appear simple. In the 2003/04 season, he was a revelation, as he helped AC Milan to their 17th Serie A title. Three years later, he had conquered Europe, helping the Rossoneri to the 2006/07 UEFA Champions League crown, and finishing as the tournament's ten-goal top scorer in the process.

"He is an extremely calm and composed boy who is never prone to either euphoria or depression," says his coach at AC Milan, Carlo Ancelotti. "He has great inner strength, and there is never any danger of him allowing his success go to his head. He is a great champion."

Positioned behind the main striker, in the role of what the Italians call the trequartista - part creator, part scorer - Kaka is often the player who conjures the final pass, but equally often he is on hand to apply the finish.

However, perhaps the most astonishing thing about the Brazilian is the simplicity of his actions, which are always executed with technical brilliance and total control. His recent goal for Brazil against Peru offers a perfect illustration: after first controlling the ball with his left foot, he delivered a finish with his right that ended up in the top corner of the net.

"I'm going through a good period. I enjoy being the link between midfield and attack, bringing the ball forward and taking on defenders. That is the area of the pitch where I prefer to operate," says a smiling Kaka, making it all sound so easy.

"He is the complete modern player," says former Brazil left-back Roberto Carlos of his compatriot." Meanwhile, Barcelona's Edmilson praises Kaka's "humility and straightforwardness". He adds that Kaka "has the aura of a leader that should make him the player to captain the Brazil national team at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups."