The uncertain future of former superstar midfielder Kaka nearly threatened to upstage the exhibition match between AC Milan and Real Madrid Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
For about 60 minutes, though, these two European powerhouses were as adept at bringing the drama on the pitch as off.
Playing in front of a packed house in the second professional soccer match at the Stadium this summer, Cristiano Ronaldo delivered Lass Diarra's through ball with an in-stride precision strike from left wing to break a tie at 1 in the 49th minute as Real Madrid rolled to a 5-1 win over its rebuilding Italian counterparts.
Still, despite the hour of fevered soccer that preceded both managers substituting the bulk of their starters, one of the biggest roars of the game came in the 61st minute when Kaka finally took the field, and again four minutes later, when he fed a stutter-stepping Ronaldo in the box for an easy score past Marco Amelia. Kaka's corner also set up Sergio Ramos' scoring header in the 81st minute, giving Real Madrid a three-goal advantage.
The crowd reaction comes as no surprise considering Kaka's days with Real Madrid may be numbered. The 2007 FIFA player of the year is being targeted by AC Milan, his former club, and Adriano Galliani, Milan's CEO, was expected to meet with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez Wednesday to discuss the terms of a possible transfer.
Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho said Kaka was likely motivated with his suitors watching. "I'm happy to keep him and I'm happy to sell if he wants to go," he said. "For a player to be happy is the most important thing."
The sticking point is, of course, money, with AC Milan hoping to acquire Kaka on a one-year loan while Real Madrid is hoping to unload a high-priced player who has seen steady declines in the three years since he commanded a 65-million euro transfer fee. Even so, Kaka would be a welcome addition to AC Milan, a club that was recently forced to sell defender Thiago Silva and world-class striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Wednesday night, AC Milan managed to stay with Real Madrid with both teams' starters in the game. The Spanish club dominated possession in the first half but struggled to finish. Real Madrid's Angel Di Maria scored in the 24th minute. Robinho scored in the 33rd minute off a centering flick from Antonio Nocerino for AC Milan's only goal.