The LA Galaxy will never fully replace David Beckham, but that doesn't mean they won't try anyway.
While LA might be able to find a player with similar ability on the pitch, it's simply impossible to replace the cachet, marketability and global recognition that Beckham brought to MLS. Absolutism aside, everybody knows David Beckham. The same won't be true for his successor.
With their now-vacant third Designated Player spot, the Galaxy need to sign somebody who can fully replace Beckham's on-field contribution, and make up for at least a percentage of Beckham's considerable off-field prowess.
That player is Kaká.
More so than any other candidate, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite represents the Galaxy and the league's best hope at moving beyond the Beckham Era and into MLS 3.0.
With AEG executive Tim Leiweke confirming the Galaxy's interest in signing the Brazilian playmaker in an interview with Sports Illustrated last week, speculation over a MLS move has reached a fever pitch.
Though not quite as lucrative as Brand Beckham, Brand Kaká carries serious weight in soccer circles as well. Outside of Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, there are few players more recognizable across the world than the baby-faced Brazilian.
Off the field, much like his potential predecessor, Kaká's is the ideal pitchman. He's a fantastic player, good-looking and so squeaky clean that he makes Tim Tebow look like Mario Balotelli. Just like Beckham, Kaká has an endorsement deal with adidas and has done modeling for Armani. A move to Hollywood could see the advertising dollars pour in.
With the Galaxy featuring Designated Players from the USA, Ireland, and England over the past two season, AEG – the team's ownership group – would no doubt love to add a Latino star to connect with the diverse fan-base in Los Angeles, not to mention the team's new lucrative television deal in both English and Spanish.
Of course, the extracurriculars don't matter much if the player in question can no longer hack it on the field. Kaká has been relegated to a bit-part role at Real Madrid (hardly damning considering the midfield available at the Bernabeu), but when given the chance, he's shown flashes of his former FIFA World Player of the Year form -- his unstoppable curling goal against Ajax Tuesday a prime example.
A semi-regular role at Madrid is nice, but from a future employer's perspective, Kaká's return to the Brazil national team is an even more encouraging sign. After a two-year absence, he scored in back-to-back friendlies versus Japan and Iraq in October, as he looks to feature in next summer's Confederations Cup in Brazil.
For the Galaxy, the Brazilian star would slot in nicely in Bruce Arena's 4-4-2 setup. LA already has two defensive-minded central midfielders in Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas, both of whom would be able to cover ground behind Kaká, freeing up space for the Brazilian to get forward.
Beckham tended to drop deep into the midfield as his time in MLS wound down. Kaká would do no such thing, and his combinations with the likes of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan (assuming he returns) could prove unstoppable.
With two years remaining on his Madrid contract, the Galaxy would have to fork over a transfer fee for the Brazilian, but that's not an unprecedented step, considering the team did the very same to lure Keane.
Would that money be better spent elsewhere? The league must improve its youth development apparatus which, frankly, isn't good enough and is more vital to the future of MLS than signing big names from abroad.
Still, the league needs stars to fill stadiums, it needs buzz to draw television viewers and it needs ambassadors to recruit the next wave of international signings. Academy talent may draw the die-hards, but the much-coveted casual fan requires further enticement.
"I think most clubs would like Kaká to come into their team," Beckham said after capturing his second straight MLS Cup title Saturday. "He's a great talent, he's a great person, he's a hard worker. He's one of the most professional players that I've ever come up against and played with.”
That professionalism was sometimes lacking during Beckham's spell in MLS, as offseason loans, injuries and league matches skipped in favor of testimonials blighted his time in the States. With Kaká, such forays are highly unlikely to occur.
When Beckham came to the United States, he was 31. Kaká will be 31 in April. If the torch is passed to the Brazilian star, the Galaxy's future will be in good hands.
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