So Ricardo Kaká gets another shot at the Seleção, albeit a lucky one -- his inclusion in the Brazil squad for the October friendlies against Argentina and Japan only came about thanks to Cruzeiro midfielder and namesake Ricardo Goulart becoming unavailable through injury.
It isn't purely a nostalgic move from Dunga, the same manager that the former Real Madrid and AC Milan beau played under in the 2010 World Cup. Kaká has been putting on some interesting performances at Sao Paulo while waiting for his MLS debut at Orlando City. That said, it was high time the 2007 world player of the year got the break he had been searching for the past four years.
The previous time Kaká donned the famous yellow shirt was in March 2013, a lacklustre display in an even more lacklustre friendly against Russia at Stamford Bridge. The sight of Luiz Felipe Scolari berating the player from the touchline was only eclipsed by the jeers directed at Neymar by some of the Brazil fans.
That game all but shut the door on his chances to help a young and jittery side with his international football mileage -- it's quite easy to forget Kaká actually has a World Cup winner's medal, having played 21 minutes against Costa Rica in 2002. Big Phil, however, had few other options when the midfielder was a mere shadow of his past self, even the injury-ridden one who played in South Africa.
Thus, it was at the VIP stands that 32-year-old Kaka made his mark during the 2014 World Cup. His case wasn't helped by some poorly explained tussles with José Mourinho at Real Madrid, which included a reported refusal from the Special One to allow Kaká to act on a whiff of an interest from Manchester United. The heart of the matter, though, was the player's insistence in trying to roll back the years. Unable to emulate his previously awe-inspiring direct attacking style, Kaká just looked like a normal player deployed too close to the opposition box, which wasn't even changed by a return to his "alma mater," a depleted AC Milan.
Some people consider luck to be intrinsically linked to hard work; Kaka's case was helped by smelling the coffee. Dropping back to a more centralised role is one of the reasons why SPFC this season have been consistently near the top of the Brazilian league table (at time of writing they sit in third place, 10 points behind runaway leaders Cruzeiro with 13 games remaining). Suddenly, seeing him back in the Seleção fold isn't just a question of relying upon his leadership qualities among players and the public; it's no coincidence that a player who hasn't really taken the world by storm the past few seasons is still a gold mine for advertisers and marketers, attributes that are quite deliberately linked to his upcoming U.S. adventure.
Dunga himself recently gave the hint that a return could be imminent. "Kaká used to be a player who used his pace a lot. Now he's more participative [in midfield] and helps his team a lot. If he keeps up he will certainly be useful for the Seleção," the manager said in a news conference only last week, despite not having included the player in any of the previous call-ups.
Speaking to Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo last week, Kaká expressed some hope of a recall. "The Seleção coaching staff needs to analyze if and how I can contribute to the team. I have to be ready for a call and if it comes I'll be happy."
ndeed he was beaming on Friday after getting the news. "I must be doing something right to be recalled after such a long time," he said, joking around at SPFC's training ground.
"Emergency status non-withstanding," Dunga knows Kaká can be quite useful for the long road ahead of the Seleção. While the manager has kept around half of the group that played in the World Cup, only a handful of these guys have actually faced the grueling South American World Cup qualifiers, where the number of games (18 in two years), playing at altitude and facing rowdy crowds are all part of the package. Kaka has been there, done that; his memories from those tours of duty might be quite helpful to calm down players when things get tough, especially when morale in Brazil is already so low after their collapse in the World Cup.
But a saviour he isn't, and to entertain thoughts of Kaká leading the team onto the pitch in 2018 in Russia is, so far at least, wishful thinking. Brazilians should be happy enough if Kaká chips in properly at a such an important transitional moment for the Seleção.
For old times' sake, though, it would be something quite special if Dunga gave him some decent playing time in Beijing on Wednesday, when Brazil and Argentina lock horns at the Bird's Nest. He was present for two of the most categorical demolitions of the old enemy -- the 4-1 victory at the 2005 Confederations Cup final and 3-0 whipping in a friendly in London the year after, a game in which he scored a peach of an individual goal, all that while outrunning a certain Lionel Messi.
It's all ancient history now in footballing terms, but the "new old" Kaká could impress by also settling Brazil down on the pitch. That could be almost as beautiful as that run, given the Selecao's tumultuous current state.