Milan paying steep price for Kaka sale

Martin Rogers

Leonardo had no answers in Milan's 1-0 upset loss to Zurich.

(Michael Steele/Getty Images)

One man does not make a team, but in the case of Kaka, it appears his departure has broken his former club.

AC Milan cashed in on its Brazilian playmaker at the end of last season, offloading him to Real Madrid for $95 million, and vice president Adriano Galliani confidently predicted the team could cope without the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year.

However, without Kaka's poise and trickery, the 2009-10 season has started disastrously for the Rossoneri, and the pressure is mounting.

Head coach Leonardo was already under fire following a miserable start in Serie A with just eight points from six games. It was hoped that the UEFA Champions League could spark a revival. Instead, it provided only more humiliation Wednesday with a devastating 1-0 upset defeat at home to Swiss side FC Zurich.

Galliani fancies himself as a master wheeler and dealer in the transfer market, but getting rid of Kaka, even at such a monstrous price, was a serious misread. The 27-year-old was the heartbeat of AC Milan and every effort needed to be made to keep him at a club he loved deeply.

No adequate replacement was lined up and the actual soccer price of a potentially lost season is just not worth the payoff.

Midfielder Andrea Pirlo has been stripped of the creative force that brought out his best, and the master plan of putting faith in an aging Ronaldinho has not been the answer. Unfortunately for Milan fans, more painful times await.

Yahoo! Sports' UEFA Champions League rankings

1. Barcelona. Defending champion being expertly led by Lionel Messi.
2. Real Madrid. Resurgent giant is back towards its best.
3. Chelsea. Has a perfect squad to challenge in Europe.
4. Manchester United. Could miss Ronaldo more in the Champions League.
5. Arsenal. Quietly coming into outstanding form.
6. Lyon. Could be the best chance of breaking the EPL/La Liga monopoly.
7. Bayern Munich. Inconsistency is creeping in, but a deep run can be expected.
8. Inter Milan. Scraped a draw from a tough away fixture in Russia.

Man of the matches

Stevan Jovetic. The 19-year-old Fiorentina striker tore apart Liverpool on Tuesday with two goals that left the English Premier League club stunned in a 2-0 defeat. Jovetic, who's from Montenegro, has been considered one of Europe's brightest young talents for the past couple of years, but this was his defining breakthrough. Liverpool's defensive frailty and lack of confidence were laid bare as Jovetic ran riot.

Shock of the week

FC Zurich 1, AC Milan 0. Hannu Tihinen's extraordinary back-heel secured a famous victory for the Swiss champion, which has now given itself a fighting chance of securing an improbable place in the knockout stage.

We're happy

Real Madrid. Those dark days of last season are a fast-fading memory as the Spanish giant continues its swashbuckling start to the new campaign. Cristiano Ronaldo has made an immediate impact at the Bernabeu and scored twice in a comfortable 3-0 victory over Marseille on Wednesday. Watch this team because it can win it all.

We're not

Glasgow Rangers. The Scottish champ made a convincing case for being labeled the worst team in the Champions League with a pitiful display against Sevilla on Tuesday. Rangers fell behind 4-0 at home before grabbing a late consolation goal in one of the most embarrassing performances this competition has seen in recent memory.