Kaka: A burning desire

Sitting opposite Kaka, the first thing that strikes you is the contrast between the tranquil person in front of you, and the driven, powerful, often unstoppable player who incites passions the world over with his skill, speed and elegance.

One cannot but think of the numerous spectacular goals the newly-crowned Ballon d'Or winner and FIFA World Player of the Year nominee has scored, in particular the ten netted in last season's edition of the UEFA Champions League, including three in Milan's semi-final victory over Manchester United. Unsurprisingly, this goal haul made him the competition's top scorer and went a long way to helping his side claim the continent's top trophy, and with it UEFA's coveted slot at Japan 2007.

Listening to his down-to-earth answers and intelligent reasoning, you quickly realise that Kaka is no ordinary individual, but instead a young man perfectly suited to the environment and era in which he finds himself. The only question now is whether he and Milan can go on to conquer the world.

FIFA.com: Kaka, with Japan 2007 just around the corner, what are your expectations?
I must admit I have a burning desire to win the Club World Cup, especially with it being my second crack at this title. I first played in it in 2003 - the format was different then - and I haven't forgotten our defeat that year to Boca Juniors. This time, my team-mates and I will be hugely motivated to see that things work out right for us. I'm sure we are up to the challenge.

Now that you mention Boca. Can you envisage another final against the Argentinians?
Let's take it one step at a time. First we have a semi-final to contest, even if we don't know yet who we'll be facing in it. I think it would be really nice but also risky if we came up against the home side [Urawa Red Diamonds] in our opening game. With them enjoying home advantage, they'd be sure to have a huge backing. If I'm honest, though, I love performing to packed stadiums in front of an enthusiastic and passionate fans, even when it's at our opponents' grounds.

Staying with Boca for a moment, it augurs well for a possible clash with the Argentinians that their nickname is the Xeneizes (the Genoese). This year in Serie A, Milan have fared very well against the teams from Genoa, who they have often struggled against in the past.
Let's hope that little coincidence brings us luck in Japan. But yes, we played magnificently away to Sampdoria and Genoa and won comprehensively on both occasions. That said, we've been lacking a bit of consistency in the league, although I'm convinced we'll arrive in Japan in excellent condition. If we make the final and end up facing the Argentinians, we'll have to reproduce the best form we've shown this season; in other words decisiveness as well as quality and creativity. The same would apply if we were to meet the Tunisians (Etoile Sahel) or the Mexicans (Pachuca).

Milan will play their semi-final on 13 December at the International Stadium Yokohama, which is also the venue for the final. It's a stadium you have fond memories of we imagine.
Very much so. It was there that Brazil won the World Cup in 2002 after beating Germany in the final. It's a day I'll never forget and one I hope to experience again at South Africa 2010.

I hope to be able to help my country finally heal the wound left by one of the most painful defeats in the history of football: our defeat to Uruguay at the 1950 World Cup.

Perhaps even at the edition after that, which will take place in your native Brazil.
By then, I'll be 32, but I hope to be able to help my country finally heal the wound left by one of the most painful defeats in the history of football: our defeat to Uruguay at the 1950 World Cup. Before that, however, I have my sights set on winning other titles. Apart from the 2010 World Cup, I'd dearly love to win the gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, as it's missing from the Seleção's list of honours. And let's not forget the Confederations Cup in 2009.

Getting back to the FIFA Club World Cup, after winning the last three editions, Brazil's teams are conspicuous by their absence this year.
Another way to look at it is, with an Argentinian side as our main rivals this year and so many Brazilians at Milan, it will be down to our team to continue the success enjoyed by my compatriots in recent years. Sure, there are other Serie A sides with Brazilians in their ranks, but at Milan, with Cafu, Emerson, Ronaldo, Dida and the rest, I feel like I'm part of a mini-national team.

If the Rossoneri do reach the final, club president Silvio Berlusconi plans to jet out to Japan ahead of the big day. Is this a measure of the importance the club are placing on this competition?
The expectation is building by the day. I only need to think of the courage of [Rino] Gattuso or the desire and willpower of [Paolo] Maldini to realise we're going to win it. We're a tight-knit group and the squad is made up of genuine champions with the experience that comes with winning everything the game has to offer. There is no sense of envy among us. From the moment I arrived here four years ago, I've never had the slightest problem. I feel I've blended in well and I know I play a very significant part out on the pitch. On the other hand, I'm well aware that individuals rarely win you things; it's always the team.

For AC Milan, and even yourself, victory in Japan could be the culmination of a fantastic era. Can you see yourself leaving Milan some day?
I have a contract with Milan with a long time still to run on it, and I feel happy here. I belong to an institution that has enabled me to realise my dreams. Moreover, in a few months time, my wife is due to give birth to our baby. Here I feel appreciated and I'm surrounded by fellow Brazilians, with whom I share a small but very unified community. To tell you the truth, the thought of leaving has never even entered my head, even though in football, there are not many things you can be really sure about. Even with something as simple as food, here in Italy you eat exceptionally well. My favourite dish is pasta, and I can't imagine there's anywhere where they do better pasta dishes.

Would you consider returning to play in your homeland one day, what with the economy starting to recover again?
It would be wonderful to have such an opportunity in the years to come. In Brazil, there are many, many players, and they all want to come to Europe, as here we have the richest and most prestigious leagues in the world. Nevertheless, I think it will be many years before the current situation changes.

In Brazil, players learn very quickly that the Club World Cup is the most important [club] title.

To sum up, what does the FIFA Club World Cup mean to you?
In Brazil, players learn very quickly that the Club World Cup is the most important [club] title. You have to win the Copa Libertadores to earn the right to take part. However, in Europe it's the opposite. The highest aspiration is to win the Champions League, and the Club World Cup is a bonus. That said, for a variety of reasons, things are different this year. At Milan, there are veterans like Maldini, who will shortly hang up his boots, and others like myself who have never won this trophy. In addition, there are players like Ronaldo who have on the sidelines for a while and therefore are hungry to shine again on a big stage. In brief, we're 100 per cent focused on the job in hand and we want that Cup.