Kaká calls it quits on Orlando City Soccer career

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Orlando City Soccer 2 Sporting Kansas City 2, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 13th May 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Orlando City SC First Team Captain Kaká announced today that he will not return to the Club in 2018 after his three-year contract expires.

The Brazilian superstar made the announcement at a press conference at Orlando City Stadium, sitting alongside his longtime friends and colleagues, club majority owner Flávio Augusto da Silva and Chief Executive Officer Alex Leitão.

“I would like to thank you, Kaká, for your choice three years ago. We had three amazing years. We built in three years what a lot of clubs in the world haven’t been able to build in more than a century of life. You were a very important piece, element, ingredient for the success of this Club,” Augusto da Silva said. “This stadium, this community, I’m absolutely sure you will never forget this community. I would like to thank you very much.”

“For me in particular it’s a very different feeling and a different moment. For me, the cycle [with Kaká] didn’t start three years ago, it started 16 years ago,” Leitão said. “We as a Club were fortunate enough and it’s an honor for us that Kaká decided to come here and join us in this journey. I believe that the foundations that he helped us to build are here and we’re going to carry his values as a man and as a football player. The doors of this Club will always be open to you [Kaká] for whatever you decide to do in the next phase of your career and your life.”

Ricardo Kaka arrives at Orlando International Airport, Orlando, Florida - 30 June 2014 (Photographer: Nigel Worrall)

Kaká arrived in Orlando in June 2014 to a hero’s welcome at Orlando International Airport and Church Street Station in downtown Orlando. The Brazilian superstar instantly put the then-expansion club and the City of Orlando on the international soccer radar, while lifting the relevance of soccer in North America before ever stepping foot on the pitch.

Kaká made countless memories for the expansion Club, including its first ever goal in stoppage time of its inaugural MLS match. The Captain started all 29 of his First Team appearances in 2015, leading the team with seven assists and finishing second behind only Cyle Larin with 10 goals across all competitions. The Captain’s No. 10 jersey was the third-highest selling jersey in MLS.

In 2016, Kaká was second on the team with nine goals and led the Lions with 10 assists while starting 23 of his 24 MLS appearances. His jersey was the league’s sixth-highest selling jersey. This season, Kaká has six goals and five assists in 22 appearances.

Orlando City Soccer 2 Colorado Rapids 0, Orlando Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida - 24th June 2015 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

In all, Kaká has made 77 MLS and U.S. Open Cup appearances for City, scoring 25 goals and finishing as the Club’s all-time MLS leader with 22 assists. Kaká was also selected to the MLS All-Star Fan XI roster in all three years he was with City and captained the All-Stars in 2015 and 2016, winning MLS All-Star Game MVP in 2015.

But it was more than his outstanding talent on the pitch that defined his time as a Lion. Kaká was a major reason for Orlando City’s local and global popularity, and with Kaká, Orlando City was second in MLS in average attendance at the 65,000-seat Camping World Stadium and second in visiting attendance. Since opening the doors of Orlando City Stadium in March 2017, the Club has sold all 18,000 season tickets for the third straight year and consistently hosts sold out crowds for MLS games.

Kaká enjoyed nearly every success imaginable in his career before arriving in Orlando. His list of personal accolades numbers in the dozens and is highlighted by the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year and 2007 Ballon d’Or, two Serie A Footballer of the Year awards and three UEFA Team of the Year selections. Kaká won the 2004 Serie A, 2004 Supercoppa Italiana, 2007 UEFA Champions League and 2007 FIFA Club World Cup with AC Milan and was champion of La Liga and the Copa del Rey with Real Madrid in 2012.

The Gama, Brazil, native made 92 appearances for the Brazil national team since 2002. He scored 29 goals the Seleção and won the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2005 and 2009 Confederations Cups.

Orlando City Soccer 4 FC Dallas 0 - 4th February 2015 (Photographer: Nigel Worrall)

“I want to take this opportunity to thank everybody, Flávio, Alex, for being a part of this project since the beginning. They trusted that I could be an important piece of this project and I want to say thank you,” Kaká said. “I want to thank all my teammates over these three years, coaches, staff here, everybody that works for Orlando City, the supporters and community, the press — everybody. I will be here to honor this jersey until the end, as always.”

The Captain’s last home MLS match will be this Sunday, Oct. 15, against Columbus Crew SC at 5 p.m. ET. Kaká’s last match at Orlando City Stadium will be on 4th November for the ‘Fuerza Puerto Rico’ Friendly, a game played to raise funds for the island following the recent hurricane devastation. The match will take place at the conclusion of the season.

Later, on social media Kaká said: “The moment now is to say goodbye, but my heart is full of happiness and joy, proud and honored to end another wining cycle.  Sunday I will play my last official match with the Orlando City jersey in Orlando. 
 
I would like to thank Flávio, Alexandre and Diogo for believing that I could be an important part of this puzzle. Thank you to all the Fans for always supporting the team, crowded the stadium and didn’t hesitate to support us at any time, even in the hardest moments. 
 
Thanks to all the community that have embraced soccer in an incredible way and my fellow teammates who are and were always 
beside me, fighting for each ball. Also, thanks to the technical staff that gave us full support, the directors, employees who built this Club with happiness and enthusiasm from the backstage. Thanks to the press, to the sponsors and all of you that always supported me through these amazing 3 years of success and achievements.
 
I will keep on supporting, cheering and believing in the club and will forever be a Lion.”

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