Whereas Kaka leaves fans with genuine heartbreak and angst, a foreboding of an uncertain and tumultuous future for Milan; the mood at Old Trafford has been pragmatic, roll up the sleeves sort of stuff at Ronaldo's impending exit.
The consensus is that of a prodigal talent who led Man Utd to blazing success but with his Real overtures, increasingly wore out his capital. Securing a phenomenal amount of money at an eye popping 655% rate of return (£12.2m to Sporting Lisbon to Real for £80m) will leaven even the most lingering doubts that this was in Man Utd's best interests. In fact, I would say the mood is bullish because £80m can buy a hell of a lot of talent. Yes, Ronaldo as a player will be missed. There was an expectation every time he took a free kick. Feet wide apart, hands on hips, eyes lasered onto goal. It was theater. It was intimidating. It was effective.
The split has been made easier because Ronaldo as a personality shows little compunction. The World Cup match against England when he winked walking back to the bench after riling Rooney into ejection stands out as an example. It was street smart stuff, the sort that Mourinho alludes to when talking about Ronaldo. What made it particularly sleazy was that it became his biggest moment while virtually accomplishing nothing with his feet. There seemingly was no calculation to the potential damage done. The chatter thereafter was whether the Man Utd team mates would be able to work together the following season.
But Ronaldo, effective at compartmentalizing emotion, left it to his performances on the pitch. His devastating tandems with Rooney, gave Man Utd three Premiership titles on the trot, effectively erasing that hiccough. More recently, his mutinous complaints about Sir Alex's tactics against Barca, had a self serving quality. In retrospect it was his sendoff match but he was shown up by Leo Messi comprehensively, as he faded away after a bright start. Again, perhaps illustrating when it comes to being self centered, he has few equals.
Kaka of course, comes from an entirely different mould of clay. He is from a wealthy family, who never saw football as an escape from the grinding poverty of the favelas. Unlike Ronaldo's frenetic and shortlived trysts that have been prurient tabloid fodder, he has shunned the spotlight, being singularly and boringly faithful to his wife. As a player, he brings those nuanced qualities to the pitch. He has a much more graceful flow and subtle changes of pace compared to the forceful, choppy, and muscular strides and crossovers of Ronaldo who loves taking defenders head on. Kaka fit in perfectly with Andrea Pirlo, another scion of a wealthy family, and their effortless and laconic fluidity defined Milan's regal midfield.
The Milan shadows and fog stands in contrast to the attacking bludgeon that Ronaldo formed with Giggs and Rooney, and then later Tevez and Rooney, famously demonstrative scrappers with a phenomenal work rate. We saw it being dismantled three years ago in the CL semi-finals against Milan when Kaka had his brightest moments.
While Ronaldo's petulance although annoying is perfectly predictable, Kaka's seemingly high minded nature can fool the most cynical of fans. Which means that one is constantly shocked when we learn that Kaka is a diver, can stamp his foot, and is also driven by pecuniary concerns. He was the most highly paid footballer in the world while at Milan and at Real his wages go up even more, to £12m. His statement of love for Milan and its fans although genuine, gave false hope to his supporters that he would stay on. In fact it created the grand illusion of Kaka as an ingenue, unaware of his club's machinations. In the end, without his tacit approval this move would not have happened. He too can be an exhibitionist, tearing of his jersey to reveal "I belong to Jesus" emblazoned on an undershirt. The two men have different ways of achieving similar results.
It will be interesting to look at the relationship between these two players, who have defined their clubs and been keys to their success, on the pitch together in Florentino Perez's second overture. The difference of £24m is a significant one, a straight forward assumption that one is valued over the other.
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