Eleven months is a long time for a team to be without its talisman. It is long enough, too, for the sceptics to raise their concerns, even if those in question are the record five-time FIFA World Cup™ winners and the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year.
But this doubt pales in comparison to the pyrrhonism that once clouded Kaka's future in football. The Brazilian was 18 and on the books at Sao Paulo when, in 2000, he slipped on a water-toboggan slide and thumped his head on the bottom of a swimming pool, suffering a fracture of the vertebra; an injury which often leads to paralysis. He was told he may never play the sport again.
Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite nevertheless refused to languish in self-pity. Instead, he composed a list of ten goals he wished to realise in football. They included returning to action; signing a professional contract at Sao Paulo; earning a Brazil cap at senior level; joining a major club in Italy or Spain; and appearing at the FIFA World Cup.
It appeared preposterously ambitious. It proved comfortably attainable. Central to Kaka's accomplishment was his ability to cruise past opponents with the balance and elegance of a champion racehorse, the passing that made his virtual second sight lethal, and the capacity to consistently score from distance with shots as precise as they were powerful.
"He's got everything. When he plays like that he's unstoppable," said then Ecuador coach Luis Suarez after his side had succumbed 5-0 to a Kaka-inspired Brazil in a South Africa 2010 qualifier one year ago.
Missed in absence
Dunga can certainly corroborate the attacking midfielder's irrepressibility. Under his reign, Brazil have lost just once in 16 matches with Kaka on the field, during which period he has scored eight goals, while they have failed to win seven times in 15 attempts without him. Moreover, the Seleção have won - and scored in - just one of their last five matches in the 26-year-old's absence.
A series of niggling injuries have kept the canary-yellow jersey off Kaka's back since a 2-1 win over Uruguay on 21 November 2007, but his return to the squad for Brazil's forthcoming qualifiers against Venezuela and Colombia has evoked palpable relief. This feeling is reciprocated.
"It's difficult to explain the pain of being away from the national team," Kaka explained. "I was sidelined for a long time and it was frustrating.."
Brazil sit second in the ten-team South American qualification group, four points behind Paraguay and above Argentina and Chile on goal difference. They could, however, mathematically find themselves third-bottom come Wednesday night.
"These are two very important matches," insisted the AC Milan player. "Our objective is to qualify for the World Cup and these six points will be fundamental to us achieving this."
La Vinotinto beat Brazil 2-0 in a friendly in the USA in June, and will have home advantage to their benefit on Sunday. "Venezuela are no punching bags. It will be a tough game but Brazil live by results," said Kaka. "I'm not the saviour of my homeland. It's not only my responsibility but ."
The long-suffering Brazil supporters are equally ready to chant the name of Kaka, which derives from the inability of his brother, Standard Liege defender Digao, to pronounce Ricardo during his infancy. Its inscription on the FIFA World Player of the Year trophy results from the inability of defenders the world over to nullify him throughout 2007.
This year has not gone according to plan for Kaka. His crack at making up for lost time with Brazil begins against Venezuela. Will the relationship between player and team be as consummate as it was before?
Absence, as the say, makes the heart grow fonder, and Kaka will be determined to mark the reunion by taking another step towards the crowded pantheon of Brazilian greats.