Orlando City, one of two teams who will enter Major League Soccer in 2015, are on the brink of making their marquee move by signing Kaká, a former World Footballer of the Year.
The news follows the recent signing by New York City FC, the other new MLS franchise, of the Spain striker David Villa.
On Friday, Orlando released an official statement confirming that they were in “advanced discussions with Kaká” and that pending completion of a deal, the Brazilian attacking midfielder would join Orlando in January, in time for the Florida club’s debut MLS season.
Such a deal would open up the potential for Kaká to play on loan with his current club, Milan, until the new year. Strictly speaking, Milan chief executive Adrian Galliani’s recent claim that there was a “99%” chance of the player returning next season did not mean that would be as an official Milan player.
Certainly the prospect of Kaká staying in Milan permanently was eroded first by the club’s failure to reach Europe next season (triggering a release clause in his contract) and then by the player's own failure to make the Brazil World Cup squad.
With Orlando’s Brazilian majority owner and backer Flavio Augusto da Silva playing up his relationship with the player at every stage of the club’s bid for an MLS franchise, the stage was set for an intensification of his pursuit of the 32-year-old, who was voted World Footballer of the Year in 2007.
In 2009, Kaká, whose full name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, was the subject of a reported £100m bid from Manchester City, although he eventually joined Real Madrid. He rejoined Milan in 2013.
Until Friday, the Orlando City front office remained tight-lipped on the prospect of signing the player. The statement confirming talks is therefore a significant move.
As reported recently in the Guardian, Kaká would be a significant lure for a team trying to attract a potentially large South American audience in Florida. One of the other loan options mentioned by the club, other than staying in Milan, would see the player go back to São Paolo FC, where he began his career. Such a move may also help raise Orlando’s profile with Brazilian fans.
Villa will go on loan as well, to New York City affiliate Melbourne City, in Australia's A-League. As news of Kaká's likely Orlando move was breaking, another MLS player was also being linked to Australia. The New York Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill, whose volley against Holland is an early frontrunner for goal of the tournament at the World Cup, has emerged as a potential target for Sydney FC.
With Concacaf teams such as Costa Rica, Mexico and USA making strong starts to the tournament in Brazil, it is possible there will be as many moves heading out of the region as in when the usual post-World Cup reshuffle begins.