Kaka retires as one of the great playmakers of his generation

Kaka celebrates a Champions League goal with AC Milan. (Getty)
Kaka celebrates a Champions League goal with AC Milan. (Getty)

Ricardo Kaka was one of the most marvelous talents of the 21st century. He was a Ballon d’Or winner. He was a world champion and European champion. He was the type of player whose mere presence on the ball could steal the breath of millions. And after 17 years of sharing his genius with the world, he’s hanging up his boots.

Kaka announced his retirement Sunday on social media, calling an end to a playing career that spanned three continents and implanted itself in the memories of millions.

“It was much more than I could [have] ever imagined,” Kaka wrote in both English and Portuguese. “Thank you! I’m now ready for the next journey.”

Kaka began his storied club career with Sao Paulo in Brazil before making the jump to AC Milan in 2003. It was there, in Italy, that the Brazilian was at the height of his powers. He won the 2003-04 Serie A title with the Rossoneri, then claimed the UEFA Champions League crown in 2007. He won the Ballon d’Or that year, the last player not named Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to do so.

After six years in Italy, he signed with Real Madrid as part of the Galacticos project. His four-year stint in Spain was hindered by injuries, but still brought a La Liga title in 2012.

Kaka then returned to Milan in 2013. After one year, he signed with Orlando City in MLS, where he dazzled and wowed fans. But his effectiveness waned, and his presence in the Orlando team ultimately became a liability. He announced he would not be returning to Orlando after the 2017 MLS season.

On the international stage, Kaka appeared at three World Cups for Brazil. He featured heavily at two (2006, 2010) and received a winner’s medal at the other (2002).

He has recently hinted that he hopes to get into coaching. “I’d like to do like [Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane],” Kaka told Globoesporte. “He stopped playing, took some time off, he saw that he liked to coach and paid his dues in the youth system. I could do it like him.”

The Brazilian has spoken specifically about the possibility of a return to AC Milan. He recently told Sky Italia his relationship with the club is excellent.

Until he announces his next move, though, we can use his retirement as an excuse to let our eyes feast on some of his best goals: