Why Kaka didn't join Manchester City in 2009 – in his own words: "The situation messed me up..."

Kaka Manchester City

The Brazilian’s proposed £100m move from Milan to nouveau-riche City was set to be one of the most sensational transfers ever – until it all fell through at the last minute. Here, the man himself reveals what really happened...

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Illustration: David Buisan

I was sat at home when the telephone rang – I can still remember it clearly. It was my father and he seemed nervously excited. Then he told me a team in England, Manchester City, had made Milan a huge offer for me. Before I could even react, he added that Milan were prepared to accept the bid. I’d had absolutely no idea that Manchester City were interested in signing me until they’d actually made their official offer to Milan.

The process had been really different to how these things often work. City didn't talk to my father – who also acted as my agent – first. They'd gone straight to Milan and made their intention clear. Very clear in fact. They made Milan an offer for me, then sat back and asked, ‘What do you think?’

At that time, Milan weren't the kind of club you expected to sell its best players. Their philosophy was to sell only those who really wanted to leave

Milan’s directors then called my dad and explained to him what had happened. At that time, Milan weren't the kind of club you expected to sell its best players. Their philosophy was to sell only those who really wanted to leave the club, and I wasn’t a player who really wanted to leave the club. However, when Adriano Galliani, the club’s vice-chairman, spoke to my father, he told him: ‘You know, for the first time, we are actually keen to do this deal – it is a huge amount of money and we will accept their offer.’  

I didn’t know what to think.

An offer from nowhere

I have always had a really close relationship with my father and we talk openly about pretty much everything. Together, we came to the conclusion that we should consider moving to England. We thought that if Milan were willing to negotiate with another club, something that was very rare, then we should seriously consider our options. It looked like a new, exciting challenge and a new chapter for me, but it had all come out of nowhere, and very quickly. Soon I started to feel confused and anxious. The situation messed me up.

I was quite agitated and emotionally shaken. I remember playing in a home game against Fiorentina at San Siro right in the middle of the negotiation period, and the whole situation being on my mind during the game. I couldn’t focus at all and my performance on the pitch was bad because of that. I can remember the Milan supporters screaming at me, ‘Don’t sell yourself, Kaka. Don’t sell yourself, Kaka.’

That was a really difficult match for me on an emotional level, and it summed up how much I was struggling throughout that period – it was anything but easy. The negotiations impacted a lot on my mood and my life as well. Which way should I go? Should I move abroad to Manchester and start an exciting new adventure in another country, or should I stay at Milan, the club I loved? It was more complicated because there were many different things to consider – so I reached out to a few people for advice.

In particular, I shared all of my thoughts and anxieties about this unexpected scenario with Galliani and Leonardo, who was Milan’s technical director back then. They were the two guys at the club with whom I talked about it most.

Of course, my family was very important, as always, in supporting me and keeping me in the right frame of mind to make such a big choice. I talked about it with Caroline, who was my wife at the time. We discussed the subject over and over for days on end. My parents and brother also knew what was going on and they played a key role in me coming to my decision.

I can’t deny that I hadn’t expected to be living through this kind of situation. I was massively surprised by City’s offer, especially as it had come during the January transfer window when it's far less common for big transfers to take place. If it had happened during the summer, when we have proper holidays and there’s time for the finer details to be ironed out, perhaps it would have proved an easier thing to have dealt with and my choice would have been clearer. I would have had more time to think away from the club and the city – and, of course, it wouldn't have been happening right in the middle of the season.

But the bid came in January, and once we’d heard from Milan that they were happy with Manchester City’s bid, my staff and I were free to negotiate the personal terms of the deal. We were very intrigued to hear exactly what this project was all about. My father travelled over to England to meet with City’s manager, Mark Hughes, and some of the club’s directors a few times.

People will naturally read that and wonder: ‘So why even consider moving to England?’ The answer is simply because Milan accepted an offer for me. When that happens, it changes everything

Carlo Ancelotti was the manager of Milan. He was obviously aware of what was going on with me, but he never said anything that could be seen as an attempt to persuade me one way or the other. He never suggested I should stay or leave the club – he would just come and politely ask how I was feeling, whether things were going well and whether I needed any help or guidance – those kind of things.

Carlo showed he had the compassion and personality to not only help me deal with such emotions, but at the same time control the situation in order to ensure it wouldn’t affect the team. In football, the team is always the priority – it has to be, and this is something I have always understood well and respected.