Kaka: AC Milan will return to the top of world football

The Brazilian star won the Ballon d'Or during his stint at San Siro but says the club have to go step by step back to the summit - just like Juventus once did

It has been a difficult period for AC Milan but club icon Kaka is confident the struggling Italian giants will return to the top of world football.

Kaka enjoyed his best football in Milan, leading the way as the club won Serie A, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup glory in his first spell at San Siro from 2003 to 2009.

The World Cup winner - who returned to Milan in 2013-14 after a four-year stint with Real Madrid - also claimed the 2007 Ballon d'Or thanks to his exploits with the 18-time Italian champions.

However, Milan have declined badly since winning the Scudetto in 2011, having gone from runners-up in 2012, to third, eighth, 10th and seventh last season.

It is a situation that hurts Kaka but the 34-year-old - now captain of MLS outfit Orlando City - has backed Milan to work their way back into contention under Vincenzo Montella.

"I had very good moments there, I saw Milan at the top of the world, and to see the team like this now, it's sad," Kaka told Omnisport.

"They're still a big club with a great history. Of course the history doesn't go on the field but when you have history like this, it is just a period, so they can come back and be the best in the world.

"I think in a few years we will see Milan fighting for the Champions League again and winning Serie A. I'm sure Milan can do this again."

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Kaka played his second spell at Milan under Clarence Seedorf, but turmoil has never been far away in the intervening period, with Filippo Inzaghi, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Cristian Brocchi all taking the reins since.

With reported long-term coaching target Montella now in place, as well as potential investment from a Chinese consortium, Kaka believes it could be a winning combination.

"I think he [Montella] is the man. It's not easy. I don't know how the Chinese will handle it but I think they will make some changes," Kaka continued. "I hope these changes will take Milan to the top again."

Montella arrived in Milan after a forgettable 2015-16 season, which saw the club finish seventh, ending the campaign 34 points adrift of five-time defending champions Juventus.

And if Milan want to return to the summit of Italian and world football, Kaka believes his former team must take a leaf out of Juve's book.

The Turin powerhouse bounced back from second-tier football in 2007, rebuilding from the ground up to eventually dominate Serie A.

"In my opinion, Milan have to understand that in this moment they have to go step by step," he added as Milan prepare to open their league campaign at home to Torino on Sunday.

"The first step will be qualifying for Europe again and playing Europa League and Champions League, because the favourites again are Juventus. They are doing very well and have a very good team.

"We saw Juve playing Serie B a few years ago and they took advantage of that to build the team again and build a new stadium. After that, they made the Champions League final and they have continued to win Serie A. It's a good example for Italian teams to follow."