Though the biggest and most internationally anticipated transfer deadline day unveiling was that of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid, it was actually a player leaving the club who once turned down an even bigger deal smiling widest.
In January 2009, Kaka reportedly rejected a £91 million transfer to Man City that would have paid him £500,000 a week — figures that would still be records today given Bale's £86 million move to Real Madrid pays him £300,000 a week. That summer, Milan could no longer keep turning down huge sums of money for the Ballon d'Or winner and sold him to Real Madrid for a then record £56 million even though he didn't want to leave.
Milan fans protested the move, as they had been doing for months, but what was done was done and Madrid had their reluctant Galactico. Though Real won the Copa del Rey in 2011 and La Liga in 2012, Kaka was largely on the fringes of the club's successes and failures. In his six seasons with Milan, he never played fewer than 30 league matches per season and scored a total of 70 goals. In his four seasons with Real Madrid, he was often injured or out of favor and never once played 30 league matches in a season, scoring a total of 23 goals.
Just before the 2013 summer transfer deadline, Kaka decided he had enough and Madrid finally agreed. A move back to Milan materialized with Kaka agreeing to cut his inflated Madrid wages by more than half and Real, amazingly, agreeing to let him go on a free transfer. Kaka was going "home." And he couldn't have been happier about it.
Upon arriving back in Italy, he said (via Milan's official website):
“Four years have passed and now I’m back. It’s been two weeks that I thought if I could come back, a return to Milan would be ideal for me. In the last few days, I’ve been dreaming of hearing the fans sing my name in the San Siro again.
Mario is a great player and I want to do well with him. I hope I can do with him what I used to do with Pippo Inzaghi. I have a lot of desire to play and it’s a very important year for me due to the World Cup, but right now I just want to do well for Milan, my team. I was very sad to leave this team and now it’s great to be back. I’m very happy.”
Meanwhile, Milan vice president Adriano Galliani hopes that the deal doesn't just bring back Kaka, but the thousands of "Kaka orphans" who abandoned the club after he was sold four years ago.
"It was around 2.30 last night when the deal was done. Now I hope Kakà's orphans, the 12,00 or 15,000 fans that stopped coming to the stadium when he left, will come back now that Kakà's returned. He really made a huge effort to come back and has shown real affection for the jersey."
Signing an out of form 31-year-old usually isn't the kind of signing that excites a major club's fanbase, but it's clear that Milan fans haven't forgotten the Brazilian. "I belong to Kaka," one sign read outside the airport, where eager supporters swallowed him whole (video here — skip to 3:10). Here's video that he shot himself...
No matter how jaded you've become by the endless stream of cynical transfer dealings, a player who doesn't care so much for money returning to the club he never wanted to leave is a nice way to close out the window.