ORLANDO Fla. A day after signing for the new Orlando Major League Soccer franchise, former Brazil playmaker Kaka said his belief in the future of the American league clinched a difficult 11th-hour decision to make the move.
“My expectation is that soccer is going to be the first sport in America,” Kaka said on Wednesday, adding that he wanted to help MLS become one of the five biggest leagues in the world and attract more international players.
“In Europe the players speak a lot to come to play in America,” Kaka said. “To other players I think I can show that the American league is a nice place to play.”
Kaka and team owner Flavio Augusto da Silva repeatedly cited as a deciding factor in his move the seriousness of the Orlando City franchise's vision as a global brand capable of attracting international talent to a growing U.S. soccer market.
Orlando City have refused to reveal the salary of Kaka, the 2007 world player of the year award and the team’s first designated player.
MLS allows three high-priced designated players per team for whom only a portion of their salaries are included in the cap.
“Yes, they’re paying me good. I had to say this. But I had another opportunity to earn more than they are paying me here. So my decision is not about money,” Kaka said.
Despite talks with Orlando over the past year, Kaka said he made his decision only recently to leave AC Milan where he spent seven years and had another year remaining on his contract.
“I always think about long-term projects ... I hope I can stay here in Orlando for a long while,” Kaka said. Da Silva posted on Facebook that the contract is for three years.
At 32, Kaka, an attacking midfielder, said the timing was right for him.
"This is the right moment for me because I’m not too old and not too young but I have the experience to come and give a lot of things to the league,” Kaka said.
Da Silva said the team has other unnamed players in mind. Club president and owner Phil Rawlins said new players must fit the distinctive style of play of the three-year-old Orlando City minor league team which he described as very open and high scoring.
Kaka will play on loan through the end of 2014 for his home club Sao Paulo.
(Editing by David Adams and Ed Osmond)