The 2007 Ballon d'Or winner, Real Madrid star Kaka, is living on borrowed time at the Bernabeu.
It has been five years since Kaka was last at the peak of his powers, half a decade of false hopes, near misses, and troublesome knees. And now his coach at Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho, has reportedly begun the slow, painful process of extinguishing a former star.
The "Special One" is thought to have told Kaka to expect even less minutes at Madrid next season. For someone who struggled to make it onto the pitch last year, Mourinho's move is a subtle shove towards the Bernabeu exit door.
According to reports in Italy, Milan are interested in bringing back the glory days of 2007, of Champions League triumphs and Serie 'A' titles. After selling Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, they have the cash, but having offloaded two giant wage bills, it makes little sense to draft in a player with a reported annual wage of €10m.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is believed to be willing to sell Kaka for just €20m, but Milan are thought to be confident of securing a deal for around €10m.
At this price, surely a few Premier League clubs will take a look. The Brazil star has only just turned 30. Granted, he is coming off the back of a series of long-term injuries but, for brief flashes towards the end of last season, the former-Sao Paulo midfielder looked back to somewhere approaching his best.
Despite the persistent knee trouble, Kaka still managed 26 La Liga appearances last year - his highest total since 2009 - scoring five goals and providing nine assists.
It's easy to forget just three years ago Manchester City were ready to make Kaka the world's most expensive player. Their reported £100m bid was rejected in January 2009, only for Milan to sell their star asset six months later for half the price.
Perez made Kaka his first purchase in his second stint as president of Real Madrid. The enigmatic former-civil engineer turned businessman resumed his Galacticos transfer project upon re-arrival, signing Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo in one giant summer of spending.
But while £80m for Ronaldo looks like a snip, the deal for Kaka looks like a dud. Like Kaka's Madrid career, the first Galactico era similarly offered much but delivered little. Perez came to power promising to erase the club's €270m debt - and sold the club's famous training zone to sign Luis Figo (£38m), Zinedine Zidane (£46m), Ronaldo (£30m), and David Beckham (£23m).
For all the expenditure, the reward seems hardly worth it. Just two league titles and one Champions League across six years. This time around, Perez has again undertaken his own quantitative easing policy, bringing in Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil
Their reward this year was the La Liga title, perhaps one of the most impressive achievements in recent Spanish football history considering their main rivals were a 73-goal Lionel Messi ably supported by Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
And while Perez's first Galacticos attempt resembled a fragmented collection of immensely talented, generously-paid footballers, Mourinho seems to fashioned a serviceable team ethic for Perez second time around.
To emphasis the point, Madrid's first Perez era saw great individual success - Ronaldo and Luis Figo both won European Footballer of the Year awards - but comparatively little team glory.
This time around Lionel Messi has cleaned up the individual awards - and until recently the collective titles as well - but Madrid's victories this season have been collective. Three players reached at least 20 league goals - Higuain, Benzema and Ronaldo. Three players provided at least 10 assists - Ronaldo, Di Maria and Ozil - as Madrid broke Spanish goalscoring records.
Unfortunately, one player - one of the most expensive pieces of Perez's puzzle - missed out. Like fellow Madrid misfits Sergio Canales and Fernando Gago, Kaka still has so much to give, just not to this team. Under Mourinho, Kaka has no place.
Any club reportedly willing to take a €40m write-down on a purchase made just three years in is obviously keen forget, forgive and move on. But Kaka, who has been linked with Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, as well as former-club Sao Paulo, would be a worthwhile gamble for most top European clubs.
At his best, few can match his graceful, languid, captivating style. The Milan Kaka cut through teams with apparent ease - as Manchester United know only too well - and Kaka is still young enough to return to such heights if he stays fit.
Of course, that's a big if, but at such a knock-price few opportunities to sign a Ballon d'Or winner present themselves. Sir Alex Ferguson, Roberto Di Matteo, Roberto Mancini, perhaps even Arsene Wenger, could be tempted to take a look.
The Brazil star has already indicated he's not willing to return to his homeland - he's not willing to give up on his ability to play at the top level.
Neither should you.
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