By MIKE GRAMAJO
ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City’s long awaited pursuit of Ricardo Kaka is finally over.
Orlando City SC officially introduced Kaka on Tuesday morning at a press conference, signing the Brazilian midfielder to a Designated Player contract that will run through 2017. Kaka arrived in Orlando on Monday evening and was greeted by hundreds of fans at the Orlando International Airport, signing autographs, accepting scarves, and even speaking for a few minutes to the media.
“I’m happy to be here in Orlando. I said one day I’d like to play in America,” Kaka said. “This thing started in 2012 when we had our first meeting when Flavio said to me he had this dream to built this amazing thing in America. It’s a dream come true.”
Orlando City won’t make their Major League Soccer debut until March 2015, so they’re loaning Kaka to his boyhood club in Brazil, Sao Paulo FC, for the next six months before coming back to Orlando just in time for preseason camp.
“We not only brought a Brazilian superstar, we brought a world superstar,” Orlando City SC president Phil Rawlins said. “Today is the day when we put MLS on notice. We may be franchise No. 21, but we’re not here to make up the numbers, we’re here to win. We’ve created a strategy and a tradition of wining soccer matches and championships, we want to do that in Major League Soccer.”
The 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year spent the 2013/2014 season in Italy, playing in the Serie A for AC Milan, but failed to qualify to European contention, allowing Kaka to opt out of his contract with the Italian club. Kaka brings to Orlando City with him numerous achievements for both club and country, including a UEFA Champions League title and a World Cup title.
Kaka told reporters that he’s been aware of Orlando City since 2012 and his friendship with club majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva played a factor in the decision to play for the Lions.
“I thought the moment to come was arriving and Orlando was the project I want to be part of,” Kaka said. “I didn’t come to America to enjoy the American lifestyle, I chose to come because I want to win the league, do something special for my career and this team. I can be an example for other players to come and enjoy playing soccer in America. I spoke with Los Angeles (Galaxy), and New York (Red Bulls).”