Far from the easy atmosphere of an overseas exhibition game, there might be some substantial drama swirling around Real Madrid and AC Milan when the two take the field Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
While the European powerhouses have grown accustomed to being pitted head to head in terms of skill, money and clout, on Wednesday, the big decisions will likely be made off the pitch, with published reports indicating that the heads of both teams are close to a decision on the future of Brazilian star and current Real Madrid midfielder Kaka.
Kaka, who is on the roster and available to play, has been a heavy target for the debt-addled Italian side. Hot off the selling of defender Thiago Silva and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Paris Saint-Germain, the Rossoneri are inching toward solvency, and would like to welcome back the 2007 FIFA player of the year, AC Milan CEO Adriano Galliani said last week.
Kaka, who spent six years in the San Siro before joining the Spanish outfit, has struggled in his time with Real Madrid, and Galliani has said that their real concern is negotiating a reasonable price for a former world-class player who commanded a 65-million euro transfer fee only three years ago.
Though Kaka's production has waned, his presence could bolster the Serie A side, which Wednesday takes on a star-studded Real Madrid as the underdog -- an unusual spot for the 18-time Italian football champions. After the loss of their top goal-scorer in Ibrahimovic, the young team needs continued production from the sometimes unpredictable Robinho, as well as Antonio Nocerino, who had a hand in all three goals in AC Milan's 3-1 win over Olimpia, a Honduran team, last Saturday.
Real Madrid has no lack of firepower, headlined by Cristiano Ronaldo and five players from the 2012 Spanish Euro Cup-winning team: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa, Raul Albiol and Xabi Alonso. Both teams are bringing their top-level squads.
This is the second game hosted by the Yankees in the 2012 World Football Challenge, and the first summer that professional soccer has been played at the Stadium since 1976, when the original Yankee Stadium was home to the New York Cosmos.