Born in Brasilia in 1982, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite - a former Ballon d'Or winner and 2002 FIFA World Cup champion with Brazil - excelled at tennis at a young age. Ricardo - better known as Kaká to supporters worldwide - pulled up stakes and migrated with his family to São Paulo, which triggered him to pursue soccer, however, joining the local club as a 15-year-old.
Eighteen years on - and at one point the sport's most expensive player following his move from AC Milan to Real Madrid in 2009 - the 33-year-old has been showered with praise for turning back the years with his new lease on his career with Orlando City SC.
One of the most venerated players of his era, Kaká's stature as an innovator and dynamic playmaker testifies to his genius to glide eloquently past the opposition, continually rip defenses apart with lacerating passes and demonstrate a knack for hitting the back of the net. His first two months since joining Major League Soccer and launching the newest chapter of a fabled career in "The City Beautiful" have been nothing short of enriching.
[NBC SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey right here!]
“It’s a great experience,” he said Friday. “I’m so happy with what I decided. Everything is nil. It’s a new experience, with a lot of difference between playing here and in Europe. But good things, not bad things."
Having reached a virtually unparalleled level of stardom during his life's work in comparison with perhaps some of the league's fellow Designated Players, Kaká's undying humility and pure love for the game - evidenced by his now obsolete Twitter bio, reading "Christian, husband and father who loves football" - is being wielded within head coach Adrian Heath's camp.
“I think it’s a change of values,” he said, stressing the importance of learning from his teammates. “I can teach them some of the experience I’ve had in my career and, for sure, I’ve learned a lot from them. We have very good players; a lot of them play for the national teams and it’s good.”
[RELATED: Yallop wary of 'well-balanced' Orlando City]
With a team-high six goals and six assists through 13 matches, the Brazilian has fared reasonably well and made his transition into MLS fairly seamless. So much so that the Lions' star man was added to the Seleção's 30-man preliminary roster ahead of the Copa América - South America's biggest international tournament - last month, but failed to make head coach Dunga's final 23-man squad.
Instead, he will return to the Windy City after a previous visit with the national team, and line up for Orlando against the Chicago Fire (7:30 p.m. on CSN) at Toyota Park on Saturday. Level on points in the Eastern Conference, a first-ever meeting beckons for two playoff-hopeful sides.
“More or less, we are in the same position in the table," he added. "We have [played] one more game than them, but the game, for this reason, is going to be hard because we need to win, they need to win. They come from a loss against D.C. and we are three games without losing, so, for us it’s a big moment. It’s time to get some points to get up in the table.”
“I’ve been here once with the national team and it’s a great city. When I’ve been here before, we went out and knew a little bit of the city. I’ll try to have another opportunity to go around."
Check out the video above to hear what else Kaká had to say.