Orlando City has yet to play a Major League Soccer match, but they've already made one of the highest-profile signings in the league's history. After months of speculation, Orlando City welcomed former Ballon d'Or winner Kaka to the club when his plane was greeted by fans and media on Monday. There's been no official announcement, but the team's owners have taken the "tease" to new levels, snapping photos with Kaka while their plane is sitting on the runway at the Orlando airport.
Kaka and AC Milan had ended their contract "by mutual consent" earlier in the day, clearing the way for the signing and for his return to boyhood club Sao Paolo where he'll spend the next few months on loan. A formal press conference was planned for Tuesday when Kaka was also scheduled to attend a viewing party for the United States-Belgium match.
Speculation that Orlando City was hoping to sign Kaka actually stretches back about a year, even before the team had officially been granted a MLS franchise. Co-owner Flavio Augusto da Silva had openly been wooing the former Brazilian international, even bringing Kaka into a training session with the then USL club. Even though Kaka spoke glowingly of the possibility, the idea of him actually joining Orlando City seemed almost too far-fetched to be a real possibility.
This was a player who was once considered the best the in the world, winning the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 2007, helping Brazil win the 2002 World Cup and making the 2006 and 2010 rosters. When he transferred from AC Milan to Real Madrid ahead of the 2009-10 season, it was for the second highest transfer fee in history, €65 million.
Even though career never quite took off at Madrid -- never managing to play as many as 2,000 La Liga minutes in a season and seeing his goal production slip each year -- Kaka showed he's still a capable player during his final season at AC Milan. After refusing to accept payment while he was recovering from injury while he was out in September, Kaka enjoyed his healthiest season in years, playing about 3,000 minutes, scoring nine goals and generally looking like a player who could still hang with some of the best in the world.
Upon suiting up for Orlando City, the 32-year-old will immediately become one of the top players in MLS and could very well be among the highest paid, as well. AC Milan paid Kaka about €4 million last season, the equivalent of about $5.5 million. Only Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe and Clint Dempsey currently made more in guaranteed compensation in 2014 among MLS players.