Kaka and Robinho Return to Brazilian Football for 1 Last Hurrah

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Kaka and Robinho Return to Brazilian Football for 1 Last Hurrah
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Tens of thousands were in the crowd jumping and cheering. Fans grinned, hugged, looked towards the stage with arms aloft.

No title had been won, no milestone achieved. Sao Paulo fans were celebrating the return of one of their biggest idols this century, Kaka.

Recent weeks have seen two of Brazil's best of the late noughties, Kaka and Robinho, move back to boyhood clubs Sao Paulo and Santos respectively.

The former returns after over a decade away. Whilst his initial years in Europe were flooded with success, topped by a 2007 Champions League medal and picking up the World Player of the Year award, a 2009 move to Real Madrid saw a steady decline in productivity, not helped by a succession of injuries.

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Kaka is on loan at Sao Paulo for the remainder of the year.

Having made the move to Major League Soccer and Orlando City, the 32-year-old is now on loan at the Morumbi for the remainder of the Brazilian season. After a disappointing 2013, the club are building a team capable of challenging for top honours this year.

Besides Kaka, their attacking sector also boasts Paulo Henrique Ganso, Alexandre Pato, Alan Kardec, Luis Fabiano, Osvaldo and the promising young striker Ademilson. Add into the mix Wednesday's announcement that Michel Bastos has joined the Sao Paulo ranks, as reported by Globo Esporte (link in Portuguese) and, going forward, the Tricolor Paulista are a force to be reckoned with.

Coach Muricy Ramalho is not known for following a Guardiola-esque philosophy when it comes to tactics. He is a graduate of the "Win At All Costs" school, an approach that has brought him four league titles and several recommendations for the Brazilian national job.

But with three of Dunga's 2010 World Cup starting line-up now at the Morumbi, and with Kaka and Ganso, injury permitting of course, likely to play as probing playmakers, that could be set to change.

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Sao Paulo coach Muricy Ramalho has a wealth of attacking options to choose from.

What Kaka needs more than anything is a chance to regain match fitness and sharpness after losing his way dramatically. A successful 2014 could see his stay extended to the 2015 Copa Libertadores, a title he is yet to win.

For Robinho, meanwhile, the path back to Vila Belmiro is slightly more well trodden. This is his third spell at Santos, having rejoined on loan for the next 12 months.

But, unlike four years ago, Robinho is short on options. In 2010, after falling down the pecking order at Manchester City, his desire to move to Santos felt like the move of a lost soul craving much-needed affection.

At the time he was also courting attention from Sao Paulo, as reported by ZH Esportes (link in Portuguese), a club that, certainly from an on-the-field perspective, should have been a more attractive offer. The club were competing in the Copa Libertadores, the biggest tournament in South American club football.

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Robinho (left) is back at Santos for a third time.

Santos were playing the majority of their matches in the Sao Paulo state championship, although they also lifted the Copa do Brasil. If Robinho was dedicated to getting into the best possible form ahead of the 2010 World Cup, he had to recognise Sao Paulo as the better prospect.

Robinho is the second major arrival at Vila Belmiro in a matter of months. Following the acquisition of Leandro Damiao at the beginning of the year, Santistas should be optimistic that this partnership could bear fruit.

Last Sunday, the 30-year-old made his third debut for the club against rivals Corinthians. Despite a 1-0 defeat, Robinho's performance was encouraging.

He went one better last night in the Copa do Brasil, netting a wonderful individual effort against Londrina to send his side into the last 16. Two minutes from time, the No. 7 burst past his marker and teed up Rildo to put the tie out of sight.

He may have missed out on Luiz Felipe Scolari's World Cup mission earlier this summer, but in Brazilian club football he has already proved he still has something substantial to offer. The pace of the game is slower than in major European leagues, and Robinho's intelligence and dancing feet are major assets.

The Selecao may still be in his sights Playing for Brazil, Robinho produced his best football partnering target-man Luis Fabiano in attack.

For Santos, he should play close to Damiao more akin to a No. 10 rather than as a strike partner. With the likes of Thiago Ribeiro and Cicinho pushing forward on the right, and Robinho free to float behind, the formation could benefit the former Internacional hitman as much as recently arrived Robinho.

The pair of Kaka and Robinho are no longer at the height of their powers. Frankly, if they were, they would not be plying their trades in their homeland.

But that does not mean that, as long as they are here, they cannot benefit the clubs that helped them make them two of the great entertainers of the past 10 years. No longer the stellar names, the pair nevertheless remain key components of clubs pushing for national glory.

 

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