The U.S. Men’s National Team will play host to a truly special match when No. 1 ranked Brazil comes to Chicago in the “Clash of Champions” on Sunday, September 9, marking the five-time World Champion’s first-ever visit to the Windy City. Kickoff at Soldier Field is set for 3 p.m. CT, and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and Univision. Fans can also follow the match live online via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker. Tickets for the match are still available, but are going fast. Call or click to your nearest Ticketmaster outlet, or get more information here.
ussoccer.com caught up with Kaká in Monaco the night before the UEFA Super Cup Final between Milan and Sevilla for an exclusive in-depth interview on his career and his thoughts about the United States. Listen now.
At the age of 25, Brazil and AC Milan midfielder Kaká has already collected a career’s worth of accomplishments – a World Cup trophy with Brazil, the Champions League title with A.C. Milan, and just recently, he was crowned the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year. But Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite is only just getting started. Beloved in Brazil and admired around the world for his precision passing skills and goalscoring prowess, Kaká has made it clear that it his ambition to ‘write my name in history.’
ussoccer.com: Congratulations on winning the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year. This must be a very big honor for you.
Kaká: “Thank you very much. For sure it is a great honor for me. I’m very happy for that.”
ussoccer.com: Remarkably, you are the first player from AC Milan every to win this award. With so many great players before at Milan - – Van Basten, Rikaard, Weah, Baggio – you represent a long history of great players at Milan and the first to win this prestigious award.
Kaká: “When I came to Milan, I said that I want to write my name in history, and now I think I’m doing that. We won the Champions League last year, and now I have just won this award. For me it’s a big pleasure. But I want to win more things.”
ussoccer.com: It was a somewhat difficult time for the club last year. How satisfying was it to win the Champions League and to avenge the loss against Liverpool?
Kaká: “It was great because it was a revenge game because we lost against them in 2005. We needed the opportunity to win again. Against them it’s a good flavor. It’s a better flavor than other opponents. For that I think it was a great value.”
ussoccer.com: Another good thing for you this year at Milan this is that you are joined by your brother Diago. What’s the experience like having your brother playing professionally with you?
Kaká: “It’s very nice. It’s like a dream. When we were young we always played together in our house and in the club. Now we have the opportunity to play together in a professional team. It’s really, really amazing.”
ussoccer.com: It is an interesting time for Brazil, not being World Champions and the first time the team has not reached the final since 1990. What was the reaction like to the team’s performance in Germany?
Kaká: “Nobody likes that. Also our players didn’t like the 2006 World Cup. But we think we can take this experience to improve and to learn a lot of things for the next World Cup. I know a lot of players won’t be there, like Ronaldo (maybe), Roberto Carlos, Cafú… but we’ve got young players now. These young players have good motivations to do some good things for the national team.”
ussoccer.com: A lot of new faces for Brazil, and also a new head coach since the World Cup in Dunga. He’s brought a much different approach to the national team, and with some success. What is your opinion of Dunga and the national team since he has been the coach?
Kaká: “He’s doing a great job. Brazil just won the Copa America. It was his first championship and he won that. For him it was a good experience and an important win. I think it’s great because Dunga stopped playing only five or six years ago, and for that he knows how the players think. For me that’s important.”
ussoccer.com: He’s brought a little different style to the way Brazil has played than in the past. It hasn’t been as popular with some of the fans in Brazil. Do you think the most important thing is that the team wins?
Kaká: “For me I think the most important thing is if the team wins. But in Brazil it’s difficult because for the people we have to win, and we have to make a show. For the coach, it is a big responsibility because he makes the team play to make a show. For us players, it’s more important to win.”
ussoccer.com: Dunga has also said that no player’s place is safe on the national team, that everyone has to earn it. As you mentioned, Brazil beat Argentina to win the Copa America. What were your thoughts on not being a part of that team and watching them be so successful in winning the championship?
Kaká: “I needed some time to rest because I’ve been playing for the national team for three years, and every year without vacation. This year I thought it was important to me to do some days for vacation. So for that, me and Ronaldinho didn’t go to the Copa America. It was important that the team win. I think for the group it’s important that nobody has a safe place. The competition is more natural, and everyone tries to take your place.”
ussoccer.com: For Brazil’s game against Argentina on Aug. 22, you started the game on the bench and came in at halftime. What was it like for you not being in the starting team?
Kaká: “In my whole life, I’ve always had to reach my targets and to reach my objectives. I think this situation is no different. I started the game on the bench, but the second half I think I took my opportunity.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve just now begun the new season with AC Milan. Is it difficult to make the long trip to the United States to play two matches, and then get back to Italy to play in the league on the weekend?
Kaká “It’s not easy. The national team needs some time to train [together]. But I think we know each other a lot and we can play good for these two games. It’s ok to come, go play with the national team, and after I come back to Milan. I think I’m used to the situation.”
ussoccer.com: These two games against the United States and Mexico are warm-ups for World Cup qualifying in CONMEBOL that begins for you on Oct. 13. How important is it for Brazil to get off to a good start?
Kaká: “For us it’s a good experience, and for Dunga he needs to start to think about the group that we are going to play in the qualification for the next World Cup. For that we have to take advantage of these games to improve and to learn. He’s got to decide the team.”
ussoccer.com: You said that when you got to Milan it was your goal to write your name in the history books, and you’ve already won a couple championships. How does that compare to the goal of playing for Brazil and ultimately trying to win the World Cup?
Kaká: “For me the World Cup is the best thing a soccer player can reach. I was in the 2002 team with Brazil and we won in Japan/Korea. Now the situation has changed. Now I have more responsibility in the national team, and I want to win again in 2010.”
ussoccer.com: Do you enjoy the role of having more responsibility with the national team?
Kaká: ”Yes, I like it. I started as a young player on the bench, and after I take a place with the national team my responsibilities are growing. I think that’s a good thing.”
ussoccer.com: You were the captain of the Brazil team that beat the United States in the semifinals of the Gold Cup in 2003. What are your memories of that team, and the experience of playing in the United States in the Gold Cup?
Kaká: “That experience was amazing. Brazil was with the Under-23 national team, and me, Diego, Robinho – a lot of the players that are now playing with the first team – we had this opportunity to play for the national team against the USA in America. For us, it was a great experience and great game. I scored in the last two minutes before the end, and then Diego scored the penalty kick in the extra time. It was great for us.”
ussoccer.com: This group of young players that you mentioned has all come up together through the national teams. Is that an advantage for you now with the senior team that this group has become so close over the years?
Kaká: “When we play together, we know each other better and better and better. In this team, there are five or six players that have been playing together for a long time. It’s important for the national team since we don’t have a lot time to train together.”
ussoccer.com: The U.S. team has started to gain prominence on the world stage over the past few years. How much do you know about the U.S. team at this point?
Kaká: “I know a lot of players because many Americans players are now playing in Europe, like [DaMarcus] Beasley. I played against him in PSV. I think now because of David Beckham, here in Europe we are watching a lot of games from the American league. I think it’s getting better, the national team and the league.”
ussoccer.com: David Beckham came to the U.S., along with your countrymen Denilson, Cuauhtemoc Blanco from Mexico … What do you think it will take for more big players to want to come to the United States to play professional football?
Kaká: I don’t know, but I think the American league is becoming more attractive for everybody. I think about that. At the end of my career, I would like to play in America.”
ussoccer.com: Where did you learn English?
Kaká: “I’ve been studying English in Milanello [the training ground for AC Milan]. We have an English teacher. Twice a week I’m arriving before training and doing two hours with him, just speaking and learning English. For me, English is the most important language in the world.”
ussoccer.com: What do you expect out of the match between Brazil and the United States?
Kaká: “I think the people can go to the stadium to enjoy the show. For us, it’s very nice to play in America against the USA. I hope we can have a great time.”
ussoccer.com: After the U.S. game, you face the Mexico team that beat Brazil in the Copa America. What are your thoughts on playing Mexico in Foxborough?
Kaká: Mexico is a difficult team for Brazil because we always lose against them. Now we have another opportunity to win. It’s not an important game, but we have this problem with them. For us, it’s a good time to start to win against them.”
ussoccer.com: You were crowned the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year. When you were growing up as a kid and watching all the Brazilian stars, did you ever think that some day you might be considered one of the best players in the world?
Kaká: “Seriously, no. I just wanted to be a professional player, and maybe play one game for the national team. That was my dream. Now I’m here on a good team. This award is really important to me. I have to thank God for this opportunity and for everything he is doing in my life.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve joined the ranks of some of the best players in the world. Who are some of the best players that you have played with in your career?
Kaká: “I love Ronaldo. For me, he is an amazing player. He is the best attacking player in the world that I have watched, and now I have the pleasure to play with him.”
ussoccer.com: You said that it was your goal just to play one game with the national team, and now you’ve had a lot of success. What’s next for you in your career?
Kaká: “We have the World Club Cup in December in Japan. I haven’t won this championship yet - I want to win this one. I want to win the Champions League again. I want to win the Serie A again. For the national team, I would like to go to the next Olympic Games and the next World Cup.”
ussoccer.com: The Olympic Games are the only tournament that Brazil team has never won. How important is that to you?
Kaká: “This is my challenge. To win the Olympic Games would be amazing for the history. Every time that I am asked, I say that I want to change history. If it’s possible that I can go to the Olympic Games and win, I think I will be in history forever.”