An ode to Kaka: Why Brazilian icon will forever be a Milan legend

As the overwhelming response to his 38th birthday shows on Wednesday, Kaka will forever be etched into the hearts of countless Milan fans.

Taking sentiment and emotion out of it for now, tallies of 104 goals and 85 assists in 307 appearances for the club across two spells tells a story in itself.

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Kaka won five major trophies during his time with Milan, including a Serie A title in 2004 as well as the Champions League in 2007, while he enjoyed further success with Real Madrid and Brazil in a glittering playing career that also saw him win countless individual accolades topped off by the Ballon d’Or in 2007.

That collection alone says enough about Kaka’s impact, but the sheer brilliance and class with which he delivered those goals, assists and trophies in a Milan shirt has ensured that he will without doubt remain one of the most respected and loved former players to represent the club.

It’s more than just the numbers behind his stint as a Milan player too. It’s the memories that he created with his world-class ability on the football pitch which resulted in moments that few will ever forget.

From his superb solo goals against Fenerbahce, Celtic and Manchester United to his defence-splitting and pinpoint assist in the 2007 Champions League final which saw Pippo Inzaghi double our lead.

There are so many to mention that it’s impossible to list them here, and then there’s his return in 2013 as fans lined the streets to welcome him back as he appeared on the balcony at the Milan HQ to greet them as they serenaded him with his chant.

To his 100th goal for the club as he celebrated with a specially-made jersey and the countless quotes from former coaches and teammates who have lauded him for the quality and class he displayed on and off the pitch, this is a player who is also loved and remembered by fans of other clubs such was his ability to get people to appreciate and celebrate his talent.

There was no fancy stuff away from football and a distinct lack of controversial headlines which we have grown so accustomed to seeing with many modern-day footballers.

Kaka is simply, and deservedly, regarded as one of the best players of his generation, and his ability to glide past players with that infamous turn of pace and elegant balance, his trickery to dribble past defenders, his eye for a defence-splitting assist or his ability to score from distance with a screamer or in a one-on-one situation with a goalkeeper, he had it all in his prime.

Pair that with the hard graft and work ethic to be as good as he was coupled with his work away from football with various charities, how can you not love the man?

Whether it’s those images of him pointing up to the sky after his majestic brilliance or the sound of Milan fans chanting that they’ve come to see our hero score, it’s wonderful to see him so widely lauded on his birthday despite the time that has passed since he decided to hang his boots up.

That is why Kaka will forever be a legend for Milan fans, and for those who just love the game.