Paris, Dec 18: Brazil and AC Milan's Kaka has simply been the outstanding footballer of 2007 and proved that claim by winning the FIFA Player of the Year award on Monday to add to his European Footballer of the Year honour.
The 25-year-old Kaka starred in AC Milan's run to the European Champions League title, then the European Super Cup and the recent Club World Cup. Few fans of Manchester United will forget Kaka's opening goal in the semi-final, second leg at the San Siro, a low drive from 20 metres, which put the tie level at 3-3, but crucially left the Italians ahead on away goals. Milan went on to win 3-0, and 5-3 on aggregate, before going on to beat Liverpool 2-1 in the Athens final. Kaka plays in the style of a classic number 10 such as legends Pele, Diego Maradona, Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane, whom so many youngsters dream of emulating.
Kaka, born Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, comes from a comfortably off family in Sao Paulo, not from the slums which have produced so many top Brazilians, and aged just 20 played in his first World Cup in 2002 where Brazil won the title for the fifth time.
At a young age, the diminutive Kaka had high hopes heaped on his shoulders with the Brazilian media saying he would emulate legendary playmakers such as Rivelino and Socrates and it was not a surprise when he joined European giants AC Milan in 2003.
His talent was as obvious as the jokes about his name were numerous and he was a key component of AC Milan's 2003/2004 Italian league winning team which finished 11 points ahead of AS Roma.
Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi is famously said to have commented: "Kaka? We could never sign anyone with a name like that." Of course AC Milan had the last laugh and he went on to become one of the best players in Italy.
He was part of the Brazilian dream team which, for them, did so disastrously to lose to France in the World Cup quarter-finals in 2006, to all appearances because of overconfidence.
Although last season Kaka did not many goals in Serie A, he still managed to set up a lot of scores for his team-mates. However, his strike rate of 10 goals in 13 matches in the Champions League helped AC Milan avenge their defeat to Liverpool in the 2005 final.
As his career has progressed, he has become more fluent in his movement, has continually improved technically and has generally got better and better in all departments.
In an interview published earlier this year, AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi said that "there has never been any possibility" that Milan would sell Kaka, who has been a target of Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon.
Real Madrid offered AC Milan 90 million euros (123 million US dollars) for Kaka, Spanish sports daily Marca reported in the summer.
Kaka, the highest earning footballer in Italy, "has never wanted to leave and I believe that he will never do so... Kaka is the symbol of Milan," Berlusconi added.
And Kaka is the highest earning footballer in Italy with an annual salary of six million euros, according to a study published in the Gazzetta dello Sport.
Milan, who have the biggest wages bill at 120 million euros a year, certainly have the financial muscle to handsomely pay for Kaka's huge influence on the team. Kaka is contracted to them till 2011 when he will not even have reached 30.