Whenever Kaka looks at a picture of the 2007 FIFA Gala, a very special smile spreads across his face. Not only because that evening in Zurich symbolises the peak of the Brazilian's career, but because of which other two finalists he overcame to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
No-one could predict, at that time, that the Argentinian and the Portuguese would go on to split football's top individual award for the following seven years, with the possibility of an eighth on 11 January at the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2015 ceremony.
“It had always been a rotation: Ronaldo and Zidane won it three times, but there was always some other player - names like Figo, Ronaldinho, myself, Rivaldo, Cannavaro… Then comes this succession of Cristiano and Messi, only the two of them - and it is fair, for what they have been doing year after year,” analysed the 33-year-old Orlando City midfielder.
The 2015 edition also marks the first time that a Brazilian player, Neymar, is shortlisted among the three finalists since Kaka’s own triumph in 2007 – a considerable drought for a country that has produced so many recipients of individual awards.
“It’s difficult to point out a single reason for this, but it must serve to alert Brazilian football. And, truth be told, it's no easy task to forge a Ballon d'Or winner," said Kaka, whose hopes of seeing a countryman emulate his individual achievement predictably rest on the shoulders of his Seleção team-mate Neymar.
"Thankfully, Neymar has improved a lot since he’s gone to play in Europe - his game is a lot more mature. Now it’s a matter of time until he reaches first place.”