Kaka's transfer quandary
There are many roads leading to Eastlands at the moment - but most of them have twists and turns before reaching the home of Manchester City.
Robinho's arrival came as a surprise even to the player. Together with agent Wagner Ribeiro he devised a strategy to escape from Real Madrid in the expectation that Chelsea would be there to catch him.
It didn't happen, and though Robinho has knuckled down to his new surroundings, the fact that he immediately parted company with Ribeiro suggests that he was not entirely thrilled about the way things worked out.
The case of Kaka is very different.
In the stadium for Milan's game against Fiorentina on Saturday there was a banner proclaiming "I belong to money" - a clear attack on Kaka and his "I belong to Jesus" t-shirt slogan.
But it is not just Manchester City's money that will turn his head, for the very good reason that he has never been without it. The son of an engineer, Kaka comes from a much more wealthy background than the vast majority of Brazilian players.
The secret of his success, however, is that he has never turned the safety net of privilege into a hammock. Instead it has been a trampoline - he has allied the advantages of his background with hard work, intelligence and natural talent to become, in the eyes of City's owner, the best player in the world.
Everything Kaka does is carefully thought out and methodical and this transfer proposal will surely be no exception.
Should he join City, he would face the almost certain prospect of a second consecutive year out of the Champions League. It would also mean saying goodbye to Milan's magnificent structure, and their highly sophisticated methods of physical preparation which have had such success in reducing injuries.
And where would the move leave him in terms of the 2010 World Cup? Last time in Germany, Kaka filmed everything that happened, hopeful of recording a historic victory - but it all went wrong. In what was essentially Ronaldo's team, he was forced to track back so much that he was quickly burned out.
In South Africa it will be different. The team will be set up for him. Might it be better not to rock the boat until then?
Along with the financial considerations, all these footballing aspects will be weighed up - and non-footballing ones as well. How will his family - including a recently born son - like living in the north west of England?
If he decides to stay put, I think there will be one clear loser - and it is not Manchester City. True, transfer fees for other City targets will rocket, but that is happening anyway. In the past the likes of Real Madrid have tried to sign Kaka, and had the door slammed in their face. City have got much closer, which gives credibility to the seriousness of their project and should make it easier to attract other big names.
The losers will be Milan, who will not receive the money, but will have weakened the bond built up with Kaka over the past five and a half years.
He is a culturally curious figure. "My differential in relation to other Brazilians who haven't done well here is the fact that I want to play in Europe," he said two years ago. "I decided to use this opportunity not just professionally but also to grow as a person. I chose to be a part of here, to learn. When I arrived I thought that the degree of difficulty would be 10, but I found that it was five. I like everything I'm living here. I love the food and I learned the language."
But there are other dishes to taste and tongues to speak and I always suspected that he might want to experience life and football in either England or Spain before he retired.
Perhaps until now loyalty to Milan has repressed any such desire, and he really did intend to grow old with the club. But now the club have allowed City to talk to him. Maybe this means that, if he doesn't go now, Milan might have to accept a lot less for Kaka if he wants to move on in a couple of years.
Please submit comments on the piece in the space provided. Any other questions on South American football to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.
From last week's postbag:
Last week you mentioned that you agree with Maradona that Gago-Mascherano should be the central midfield partnership for Argentina. Now, I have a question for you: what should be the ideal central midfield partnership for Brazil?
I think it is fair to say that the two "volante" positions do not have a clear owner now that Gilberto's, Edmilson's and Juninho's careers are in the twilight. Anderson and Lucas looked promising but have been erratic in club form of late, I wonder if they'll live up to their potential by staying in their current clubs.
Josué and Mineiro were tried but have proved out of their depth in the national team, and probably are already too old. Hernanes started well but has since evolved more into an attacking rather than deep-lying midfielder.
In sum, it appears Brazil are well behind Argentina on developing that department - and Beijing has shown a glimpse of what may be to come. What are your thoughts on that?
A subject close to my heart! It saddens me to see a converted centre-back like Gilberto Silva playing for Brazil in the position that once was Clodoaldo's.
Many things have contributed to this - the 1982 defeat, a desire to match the Europeans in physical terms, a gameplan based on freeing the full backs to attack, and a lack of job security in the domestic game leading to cautious coaches. But we've now reached a situation where Brazil can only play on the counter-attack. If the opposition get men behind the ball, Brazil lack the wit in central midfield to pass their way through.
The good news is that I think we're starting to see a change - the last Brazilian Championship featured more central midfielders who can pass the ball - with Hernanes chosen as player of the tournament. I'm hoping that a trend is underway whereby Brazil rediscovers its glorious tradition in this area of the pitch.
There plenty of candidates for the Gago position - Hernanes has the talent, though perhaps the Olympics showed that he could do with a move to a club that play more possession football, and as you said, Anderson and Lucas are around as well.
What would really be great would be to find a number five who can play - Dudu Cearanse, now of Olympiakos, was a great hope for a while, but always wanted to play further forward. I remember how Luxemburgo got his Corinthians side playing a decade ago by withdrawing the Colombian Freddy Rincon to this role. I
t's a complete wild card, but I wonder about Fabricio of Cruzeiro playing there. You lose out defensively, but he can organise a team from deep, which has been sadly lacking of late. Also, Jean of Sao Paulo looked promising last year - I'll be watching his progress with interest.
Why is it in club football in South America and Spain there is some prestige attached to being president of a club and why does it not exist in England?
Because Real Madrid, Barcelona and the vast majority of South American clubs are associations where the president is elected by the members. In order to be elected you need to have a high political profile - who is going to vote for a candidate they have never heard of? So there is lots of publicity and debate in the press where the candidates get their ideas across. The structure of English clubs makes this unnecessary - control enough shares and the club is yours.