Kaka reveals what scares him
The Samba star was a picture of elegance on the pitch – he talks footballing artistry, developing a calm mind and the boots that fired him to World Cup success
You glide when you are running with the ball – was that a natural gift or something you had to nurture?
Balance is something I needed to work hard on when I was a youngster growing up in Sao Paulo. I think it’s an important attribute for a player to have, especially when you are running at speed. When I make a pass or have a shot at goal, I always have do that on one foot, so maintaining balance is key to staying in total control of my body while I’m executing the technique.
You scored two brilliant goals against Man United in 2007, one with your right foot and one with your left. How did you become so good with both feet?
It was purely down to practice. When I was younger I trained with both feet by passing the ball against a wall over and over. I think you should improve your best skill and work on your strengths, so I’d always practise with the right more than the left, although I made sure that I was comfortable with both feet.
You often went for placement over power whenever you had the opportunity to shoot – why was that?
I always preferred a precise finish because I realised from a young age that I didn’t have a powerful shot.
I scored a few goals that were hard shots, but most were placed finishes. I learned how to bend the ball, which made it really difficult for the goalkeepers to save, even if it wasn’t a particularly powerful strike.
You have always had a very relaxed demeanour on the pitch. Is that a product of the Brazilian culture and the country’s general approach to the sport?
This is just my style, I think. In Brazil, football’s about creativity and producing something a bit different, so by being calm I could make sense of situations more efficiently. I used to panic a lot when I was younger, but calmness comes with more experience. The main reason I started running so fast with the ball towards goal was because I used to be so scared of losing it!
Brazil have had some incredibly talented forward lines over the years – do you think Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho have the potential to emulate some of the great names from past eras?
I think they’ve all got some incredible talent and can potentially have incredible careers. They are still very young, although they could go on to become one of the greatest forward lines that the national team has ever produced. However, we’ll have to wait and see.
At your peak you were the best attacking midfielder on the planet and were crowned FIFA World Player of the Year in 2007. Which attacking midfielders do you feel are currently the best in the modern game?
The position’s changed a little bit in recent years. I’d say that Neymar’s a modern attacking midfielder. He isn’t a striker or strictly a forward, as he likes to roam around the pitch and drops deeper to get hold of the ball. Lionel Messi is the same, so I’d say those two are currently the best in that position in the modern game.
You’ve played in many different formations during your career. Which do you think has suited you best?
I had a great period under Carlo Ancelotti at Milan in 2007, winning the Champions League. He played me as a second forward and that meant I didn’t have too much defensive responsibility – all of my energy and focus was purely on scoring goals and making assists. This was an incredible period for me during my career.
If you could play in the same team as any current or former player, who would you choose and why?
As a Brazilian I would always have to say Pele. I’ve watched all the videos of him playing and it would be amazing to have just one match alongside him.
You wore the Adidas Predator during your career – what did you love so much about the iconic boot?
The most important thing is to be comfortable in your boot. Every year I wore the Predator and that boot is a part of my history. Whenever I see one of my boots I can remember the match, the period and the goal I scored or something special that I did on the pitch. I’ve kept hold of my old boots and have Predators in so many different colours – it’s nice to look at them sometimes because they bring back great memories.
Below Savouring a Milan derby equaliser in 2004
Bottom Placement over power: Edwin van der Sar was beaten thrice by the Brazilian in the 2006-07 Champions League semi