The return of Kaká has spread jubilation and joy around the football world. Inarguably, one of the finest midfielders of this generation, Kaká’s return to football is celebrated not only across Madrid but also across the world. In his first press conference after making his comeback against Getafe, Kaká said “I am very happy for playing a game again and for stepping onto a pitch, I must now earn a spot because the team is in great form. Competition is always good for the team.” These statements by Kaká reflect the form of Real Madrid and the difficult task ahead of him to get back into the first XI. Undoubtedly, Kaká in form is better than any midfielder in the world and Real Madrid will be hoping that the Brazilian hits his peak very soon. But the question on everybody’s mind, Is he really required? If yes, where does Kaká fit into José Mourinho’s plans?
Kaká’s injury woes at Real Madrid
Kaká’s first season in La Liga was plagued by a groin injury, which restricted him to 22 appearances and Los Galacticos finished second behind champions Barcelona. Then came the football World Cup. According to a revelation by MARCA, Kaká injured his knee during the second game of the world cup but continued to play in football’s biggest tournament. Unfortunately, Brazil was knocked out of the world cup by Holland. During a training session at Real Madrid‘s camp in Los Angeles, Kaká felt pain in his knee and an arthroscopic surgery confirmed an injury to the left meniscus with minimal inflammation of the cartilage. This left Los Blancos without the services of Kaká for the first half of the season.
After spending a considerable amount of time recovering from his injury, Kaká made his return to professional football with a 15 minute cameo against Getafe on January 4, 2011. It was one of the most anticipated comebacks in recent times and the midfielder looked comfortable on the ball and even made a few darting runs forward indicating his progress and hunger to play professional football. Against Levante, he came on as a substitute for 35 minutes replacing Benzema and looked assured on the ball.
Real Madrid – current scenario
Real Madrid have a terrific array of talent in their midfield. Presently, Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s costliest player, plays on the left and Angel Di Maria plays on the right. With Kaká injured in the summer, Real Madrid shelled out 20 million Euros on the German playmaker Mesut Ozil, thus forming a formidable, efficient and talented midfield. Ozil settled in quickly and has been largely responsible for dictating the play by creating numerous chances for Los Merengues. With Higuain as the sole striker, Real Madrid’s attack has been deadly and their counter attacks even deadlier. Barring the loss to the Blaugrana, Real Madrid have looked comfortable playing against any opposition and have scored goals at will. The forward line has been superb, interchanging positions when required. The attacking midfield trio has got used to each other on the pitch and with Xabi Alonso pulling the strings from deep and Marcelo and Ramos providing the overlapping runs, Real Madrid’s attack is a headache for any opposition.
Where does Kaká fit in?
It’s common knowledge that José Mourinho doesn’t like to tinker much with his starting formation and his set of players. The first team players have settled beautifully into their respective roles, and the Madrid bench is formidable; this has given a selection headache to José Mourinho, as he tries to accommodate the genius of Kaká in the team. At AC Milan, Kaká operated as the central attacking midfielder and sometimes as a supporting striker or as a striker. Kaká has every skill in his armoury, be it pace, first touch, a glorious foot and most importantly a vision. Such footballers are very special and very rare. This means that Kaká can operate in multiple positions and gives more choices to José Mourinho to employ him in various positions without altering Real Madrid’s style of play.
Inspite of Mourinho openly declaring the need for a new striker, Madrid’s hierarchy doesn’t seem very interested in obliging Mourinho’s demands. With Higuain reportedly injured for the rest of the season and Benzema being the only proper striker, Mourinho replaced Benzema with Kaká against Getafe and Levante, and this might be an indication of what might happen in future. If this happens, how would Kaká operate upfront and how does the midfield play around Kaká?
Marcelo and Sergio Ramos produce overlapping runs, denoted by bold white lines, adding an extra dimension in attack. Khedira, a box-to-box player, would provide a defensive as well as an attacking option, making him an invaluable resource in central midfield. Xabi Alonso, the fulcrum of Real Madrid, has the option of spraying the ball around (yellow bold lines). Ozil, playing as a central attacking midfielder, would provide the link between players and would facilitate movement of the ball in and around the box. Di Maria, playing on the right, with his darting runs provides another dimension to the attack. Kaká, playing as a striker but more in a supporting striker position can interchange positions with Ronaldo, thus enabling Ronaldo to barge into the box and take a shot on goal. With Marcelo having made his forward run, Kaká can then try cutting in from the left flank, making himself a supporting striker or a striker depending on the situation.
The return of Kaká has surely come as a shot in the arm for Jose Mourinho after the disaster at Camp Nou. With a grueling season ahead, Los Blancos will hope that Kaká can provide the x-factor necessary to reclaim their place as the most dominant football club in the world.