Kaka on Orlando: 'Dream come true'
Kaka, the 32-year-old former AC Milan midfielder, arrived in Orlando via Sao Paulo, Brazil, after signing a deal with Orlando City Soccer that was formally unveiled by the club on Tuesday. He is the Lions' first MLS-designated player and is expected to be a key piece of the franchise when he joins in January of 2015.
"I have said before that I wanted to play in America. It is a dream come true," Kaka told fans. "MLS is growing so fast, I want to do my part to help to grow the sport in this country."
The Brazilian playmaker confirmed on Monday he will move on loan to Sao Paulo before joining Orlando City following the mutual termination of his contract with AC Milan. Orlando City said he has signed a guaranteed deal until 2017, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The Rossoneri announced Kaka's second spell with the club is over, despite still having one year left to run on his deal, after he exercised a get-out clause following Milan's failure to qualify for European football next season.
He will now join Sao Paulo on loan, the club with whom he began his youth and professional career before being sold to Milan in 2003. He will return to Orlando City in January 2015. The club will become a team in the MLS in spring 2015.
Orlando City owner Flavio Augusto da Silva is Brazilian and both he and club president Phil Rawlins were on hand to welcome Kaka on Tuesday. Hundreds of fans turned up at the airport on Monday to welcome the 2007 Ballon d'Or winner and 2002 World Cup winner.
"We want every Brazilian's second favorite club to be Orlando City," da Silva said. "It is the dream of every player to play in the World Cup. Kaka has done it three times, including winning it in 2002."
Orlando City will debut in 2015 along with the MLS' other expansion club, New York City FC.
"This is not about the money," said Kaka, the world player of the year in 2007. "I know you know my resume. I can play anywhere else if money were the top question. This is a life opportunity, for myself, for my family. Players from now on will be looking for soccer opportunity in the United States."
The signing was the culmination of two years of "flirting" between da Silva and Kaka ("I love Flavio, but I'm married and so is he," Kaka joked) after the World Cup champion MVP served as a spokesman for one of da Silva's companies. Even after da Silva sold the company, his pursuit continued as Kaka entertained some MLS offers, most notably from New York.
Both Kaka's appreciation of the Orlando market as well as Brazil delivering the highest number of international visitors to the destination, influenced his decision to become the face of Orlando's startup efforts as the MLS' 21st franchise. The team has won two USL Pro regular season titles and two post season championships.
Rawlins said that signing Kaka was one of the franchise's primary goals.
"Not only did we sign a Brazilian superstar, we signed a world superstar," Rawlins said. "Kaka is not here to retire, he's here to win. We've put the MLS on notice."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.