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Kaka is not what MLS needs

Dec 5, 2012, 2:00 PM EDT

Real Madrid's Brazilian midfielder Kaka Getty Images

A certain Brazilian scored a wondergoal on Tuesday, kickstarting “Kaka-to-MLS” rumors once again. Although the 30 year old denies anything it happening, you never know.

I hope it doesn’t.

Not because getting Kaka wouldn’t be good for the league. It would be. But it’s an unnecessary waste of limited resources, and not the message MLS should be sending. At Fox Soccer, Leander Schaerlaeckens argues that MLS should focus on younger players, and I completely agree. The league should target rising young stars — the best players in Central America, the Caribbean, and, where they can, South America — rather than relying on aging superstars. Yes, Kaka is “only” 30, but so is Landon Donovan. And Kaka is no longer the Kaka of 2010.

Nor is Kaka David Beckham. The Brazilian is a celebrity because he’s a footballer, but Beckham was a celebrity because he was a brand. Two different things. Sure, Kaka would sell some Galaxy jerseys — plenty, probably — but I’m not sure how much he’d do to improve the league’s visibility abroad. The world already knows that MLS exists; the goal now is to prove to the rest of the planet how the quality is improving (and rapidly so). Bringing Kaka to these shores doesn’t accomplish that end. All it does is give Europeans et al another reason to look down on MLS.

And then there’s the money. The Galaxy have deep pockets — SD heard they would spend up to $9 million to secure the services of Didier Drogba — but lavishing fat contracts on men like Drogba and Kaka isn’t the answer. Just because you have the money doesn’t mean you should spend it unwisely.

But I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong? Am I missing the influence he and his 13 million Twitter followers would have off the field?

  1. footballer4ever - Dec 5, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    Noah,

    You make solid points on what MLS needs; Nevertheless, this leagues needs personalities, footballers with a profile and only well established footballers can do that who can attract the “casual” or international fanbase to a young league. Beckham is a unique footballer who happens to be a celebrity outside of football as well. Kaka is not close to that, he’s a “celebrity” only because he’s s footballer.

    My point is that our league sure needs a good mix of great young players, regardless where they are from, and high profile footballers can only help keep the league in the long run as long as it does not compromise the league ala NASL.

  2. footballer4ever - Dec 5, 2012 at 2:27 PM

    If not Kaka, then who is worth it that can somewhat accomplish what Beckham did or at least half of it?

    Drogba went to China for the money only , but he’d been better of choosing MLS in many ways other than $$$. Not everyone is Beckham who aside money has abroader vision other than $$$.

  3. wesbadia - Dec 5, 2012 at 3:07 PM

    Over on Steve’s column about DP’s and poor MLS personnel decisions concerning them, I made the case that the best DP’s in league history have been of the play-making type; ie, those at arms length away from defensive stalwarts or scoring machines, and that play a virtual #10 role or some sort of creative role outside the #10.

    Kaka fits that bill.

    What Beckham did for the league over the last six years is beyond what any one person will do for the league now or in the future. Beckham was THE best person to have ever graced our shores for the sport of soccer, and I would say that no other person would’ve been a better ambassador here or in the world for an upstart league that had the world in front of it.

    That being said, to compare Kaka or ANY OTHER foreign player with potential to come to our league to the heights of Beckham is a travesty and a misunderstanding of what Beckham was or is. His celebrity outside the game is what made him the optimal choice for MLS. No one will live up to that. Pele could’ve never lived up to it. His brand is what has lifted MLS up higher, and if there’s any thing, player, or action to elevate MLS to the true world stage, they can thank the stars for David Beckham who came before.

    Kaka may not have a brand, but he has the skills our lowly league could use. Outside of the fact that he hasn’t been on his game for one of the top clubs in the world, to think he wouldn’t add much to MLS is a joke. He fits the bill for the type of DP that would be met with much success. He has the creativity, the spare longevity of his career that’s needed, and (coming off the lax playing time) the presumably immense desire to get his game back.

    Kaka might never win a Cup with LAG, but he could further the dynasty they currently have for another several years. And therein lies the value of Kaka: his quality of play is what’s needed here, even at the age of 30, even after not having had a national team call up in two years, even without the brand that Beckham has. You cannot deny he is quality, especially compared to our current par in MLS. What he’d bring to the field would be enough to at least help the Galaxy achieve something more than what they already have (CCL title maybe?).

    Sometimes I feel like people get so detached from the fundamentals of something by concentrating on other pertinent factors that they forget there are fundamentals to begin with. It’s true here. The fundamentals of this league (any league) is to have as high of quality on the field as possible to quell the interest of the fans that the league is providing for. Kaka brings that right now. Yes, continue to think about the fact that he doesn’t have the brand or the image or the celebrity or the appeal of someone like Beckham, but also look at the pragmatic approach: he’ll elevate the game here regardless of those things.

    Whether Kaka decides to come or not, I hope Arena and AEG don’t drag their feet on offering him something, anything, to come play here. He’s out of contract soon, and waiting another year or two (especially until after the World Cup) will be too long, and will miss the hey day of Kaka’s would-be contributions to our league. If they have the cash, don’t pass it up.

  4. dfstell - Dec 5, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    I disagree and think Kaka would be a great signing for the Galaxy for the simple reason that they seem to have money to burn and only 3 DP slots.

    Sure, if they were allowed to smear that money across their entire roster, it might be smarter to find 10 young players at $500K rather than one player at $5MM, but the MLS rules won’t allow that.

  5. rufulk - Dec 5, 2012 at 5:41 PM

    There is definitely wisdom in Leander’s thesis that MLS should focus its resources on rising young stars both domestically and abroad than throw money at a player who is [pick your DP stereotype - over the hill, looking for a paycheck, named Denilson or Mista].

    But to outright reject the addition of Kaka (or other similarly suited players) because of this mindset makes little sense either. Rather, if a team has the resources, the team management skills, and, perhaps most importantly, the need for a player like Kaka, then I posit that picking him up would make sense.

    For example, a strong argument could be made the Kaka (at least in 2013) would be a great signing for a team like RBNY. If by some magic they could offload the disastrous signing that is Rafa Marquez, Kaka could, in theory, act as the missing link up between the team’s defense and Henry. That role was expected to be fulfilled by Cahill, but hasn’t materialized (a whole ‘nother conversation). Just because Kaka’s not Beckham and wouldn’t contribute as fully to the league’s recognition doesn’t mean he couldn’t bring RBNY, or several other teams, closer to winning an MLS cup.

    And isn’t that the goal?

  6. joeyt360 - Dec 5, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    It’s a false dichotomy Leander is drawing. MLS got a reputation for being a ‘star driven league’ in the Beckham Era on just a couple of players for most of his time here, and only half a dozen max when he left.

    You can, in fact, have a bit of everything–there’s nothing stopping you from developing young players (hello, Jack McBean/Jose Villareal!) just because you’ve spent a lot of money on a star, as long as that star does indeed sell the tickets.

    Now, as to whether Kaka is Beckham, you have a point, BUT:

    * the Galaxy has a local TV contract valued at $55M (over 5 years, I think), that is predicated on having a star player. So $10M spent on that basically pays for itself before he sells a ticket or a jersey.

    * We shouldn’t prejudge the Latino fans’ response to this. They are a large segment of the Galaxy fanbase, both current and potential. And generally, even though they speak a different language, Brazil is considered part of ‘the neighborhood’ and followed quite a bit (Madrid even more, but then Kaka’s best years were with Milan).

    * Kaka is better than Beckham in one respect–his ability to score goals (as of today he became the top scoring Brazilian of all time in the Champions League) and generate highlight reel plays, something that for all Beckham’s celebrity was really not his gig.

    * And for what it’s worth, he may not speak English well enough to be a super product endorser, but he’s quite telegenic.

  7. buckyball77 - Dec 5, 2012 at 7:33 PM

    “unnecessary waste of limited resources” – Noah, aren’t the resources team by team? If LA spends lots on an over-the-hill high profile player who doesn’t produce (not saying Kaka is that) and has a poor season, then some other city is the home of the Champions. Isn’t that what we call league parity?

    If what you’re really talking about is the marketing of the League to tv networks through its big-market teams, we can debate whether Kaka is a good spend of marketing visibility money. In the competitive LA sports marketplace, the Galaxy may have to always spend to have “Galacticos” on their team, just to survive. With some sort of salary cap, the rest of us can live with that. We can go the “best bang for the buck” route – like an RSL or Houston.

  8. drewvt6 - Dec 5, 2012 at 10:08 PM

    If kaka comes to the league with a Robbie can-do Keane attitude then sign ten of him. I wish more young US players could be in and around the work ethic of guys like Beckham and Keane.

    You don’t develop quality younger players in any sport without solid veterans to pass on the tricks of the trade. Nowhere is this more evident than in discussions of college athletics. Coach K and the late Rick Majerus and former Portland coach Clive Charles always stressed this in any team building and player development setting.

    The league needs a mix of stars and the culture of the team should establish the pattern, but should be determined on a team by team basis.

  9. iamjimmyjack - Dec 6, 2012 at 12:09 AM

    It’s aeg money. How would bringing a superstar not be good for a semi struggling league. What a joke

  10. geo91 - Dec 6, 2012 at 1:34 AM

    Kaka isn’t in the same form as he was in 2007 but he’s still too good to not be in Europe

  11. chargerdillon - Dec 6, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    So the world now knows the MLS exists, but the goal is to show the rest of the world the quality is improving…….

    Success translates to success. Because Galaxy had money to spend, they spent it and brought in a player who they made all their money back on and won 2 championships in the process.

    At this point to not spend money on another superstar who can do that for your team, would be the backwards approach to everything the MLS has worked hard to achieve.

    If you really feel Kaka is not the answer, you shouldve said CR, Messi, Rooney IS THE ANSWER.
    The MLS would be better suited to chase Neymar, but they cant afford nor get Neymar…..SO THEY GO AFTER WHO THEY CAN GET. Noah, please tell me how you got hired to make no sense.

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