Before Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo was Kaka.
The Brazilian was the last player to win the Ballon d’Or before Messi and Ronaldo embarked on a 10-year stretch in which nobody else could touch them.
In 2007, Kaka delivered one of the most successful years ever.
Playing for AC Milan at the time, he won the Champions League, Serie A Player of the Year, UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, FIFPro World Player of the Year and FIFA World Player of the Year, as well as the Ballon d’Or.
It was in the Champions League where he truly shone, finishing as the competition’s top scorer with 10 goals as AC Milan got redemption for their 2005 defeat to Liverpool by defeating the Reds 2-1 in the final.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side were actually beaten 3-2 but two away goals put them in the driving seat and they reached the final after beating United 3-0 at the San Siro.
Both of those away goals were scored by Kaka, who put on a one-man show at the Theatre of Dreams.
Cristiano Ronaldo gave the hosts the lead in the fifth minute but Kaka levelled the score shortly with a neat finish past Edwin van der Sar.
Then, in the 37th minute, he made a mockery of Man United’s defence to make it 2-1.
Kaka lifted the ball over Gabriel Heinze before beating Patrice Evra to it, forcing the two United defenders to crash into each other in the process.
One-on-one with Van der Sar, the midfielder coolly slotted the ball beneath the Dutch goalkeeper.
Kaka’s individual highlights
It’s rare to see a player come to Old Trafford and take over, especially in Sir Alex Ferguson’s era.
But Kaka produced a masterful display that showed he was deserving of his status as the best player in the world.
His highlights from the game have been compiled into a video and it’s certainly worth a watch, just to remind yourself how good Kaka was.
Things didn’t work out for the Brazilian at Real Madrid but his prime years were extraordinary.
“For two or three years, he was the best player in the world,” explained Andrea Pirlo in 2015, per the Daily Mail.
There was a point when teams just had no idea how to stop him.
Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, you were something else.
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