Show AC Milan the money

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

It's easy to see how Kaka could be expendable if Man City provides 160 million reasons to sell him.

Within the next fortnight, Kaka is likely to become the most expensive soccer player ever when he completes his transfer from AC Milan to Manchester City.

The astronomical fee of around $160 million that will exchange hands between the clubs will be more than double the previous record and will probably not be broken for several years. Indeed, in the current financial belt-tightening climate, City's oil-rich Middle Eastern owners might be the only ones who could consider such sums.

However, don't be fooled into thinking that the price tag makes Kaka the best player in soccer, or the one who was most likely to revitalize City's fortunes. It just means he is the best player the club thought it could get.

Cristiano Ronaldo? No chance. Lionel Messi? Forget it.

Assuming City finally gets its man, there will be great excitement in the blue half of Manchester, with a dramatic unveiling and proclamations that the savior has arrived. The club's hierarchy will boast of its remarkable achievement in prying away a former world footballer of the year from a giant club such as AC Milan.

But the Italian side has played a clever game. Once reports of the proposed deal first emerged, there was mock outrage from Milan and an insistence that he would never be allowed to leave. Yet behind the scenes, the Rossoneri have been gently nudging Kaka toward the exit door, with one eye firmly locked on that enormous transfer figure.

Clubs like Milan sell its marquee talent only when they believe the player is no longer critical to its future progress, regardless of the price. That is why bids to Manchester United for Ronaldo and Barcelona for Messi would have been utterly pointless.

Kaka is 26, though, and while he is a star of the game, you can do a heck of a lot with $160 million.

City is paying way over the odds, and may not care. But the real winner in all of this is AC Milan, who will be laughing all the way to the bank.

The First XI

1. Get him an Advil

Rafa Benitez's ongoing dispute with the Liverpool ownership group shows no signs of slowing down. The Spaniard is fuming that his new contract has not been finalized and is demanding greater control over player transfers. With the club challenging for what would be its first league title in nearly two decades, the fuss is the last thing Liverpool needs. But owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are in no mood to be forced into action and the saga could go longer and get uglier.

2. Get him a beer

Can there be a happier man in European soccer than Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola? Halfway through his first season in charge, the Catalan legend has become the first coach in La Liga history to reach 50 points at the midway stage. The weekend provided another masterpiece, with Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o each scoring twice and Lionel Messi adding another in a brilliant 5-0 demolition of Deportivo La Coruna.

3. Get him some earplugs

Ramon Calderon claims his tenure as Real Madrid president has dented his bank balance and his health, yet there will be precious few tears shed over his departure. Ever since taking over in 2006, Calderon struggled for popularity, and his comments were often perceived as insincere. His public feud with Manchester United was entertaining but did nothing to strengthen his shaky position. Calderon won't be welcomed back at the Santiago Bernabeu by fans anytime soon.

4. Four corners

• Can Hoffenheim still keep up their challenge with Vedad Ibisevic injured?

• Are you convinced by Chelsea's denial that Roman Abramovich is looking to sell?

• Maybe Gremio's players don't need help rising to the occasion at high altitude in the Copa Libertadores?

• Could Sacha Kljestan succeed in Scotland if this became a permanent deal?

5. Catch a flight to …

Los Angeles. It is a big year for the United States men's national team, which sees its first action of 2009 against Sweden at the Home Depot Center this Saturday. Mainly MLS players will be used by coach Bob Bradley, but the match should provide some insight into the head coach's tactical thinking going into the final round of World Cup qualifying.

6. A round of applause for …

Jeff Agoos and Joy Fawcett. The former men's and women's U.S. stars were elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Both are deserving entrants, but Chivas USA coach Preki was unlucky to miss out this year.

7. Get him a Kleenex

Joe Cole. The Chelsea midfielder's season ended with a serious knee injury, and the repercussions for both his club and England could be severe.

8. Get ready to say hello to …

Bobby Convey. The U.S. international winger is considering a move back to Major League Soccer as his career with English Championship side Reading stagnates.

9. Get ready to say goodbye to …

Francisco "Panchito" Mendoza. Chivas USA has lost the last remaining member of its original 2005 team, as parent club Chivas Guadalajara snapped up the winger last week.

10. Get excited about …

Alexandre Pato. All the attention at AC Milan is currently focused on Kaka and David Beckham, but what about this 19-year-old Brazilian star? Six goals in four games make Pato one of Serie A's hottest players.

11. Why it's good to be a soccer player

Take a look at Daniela Cannavaro, wife of Italy's World Cup winning captain Fabio Cannavaro.

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