Kaka plays during AC Milan's Champions League match against Barcelona on Tuesday. Photo: IC
Brazilian Kaka looked a player reborn while producing a superb display in AC Milan's 1-1 European Champions League draw with Barcelona on Tuesday.
Kaka, back at the Serie A club after a mediocre spell at Real Madrid, set up Robinho's ninth-minute goal with a delicate pass with the outside of his foot and was a constant thorn in Barcelona's side.
Lionel Messi equalized in the 23rd minute to leave the Catalans on top of Group H with seven points from three games, two ahead of Milan and four in front of Celtic who beat bottom club Ajax Amsterdam 2-1.
It was a particularly impressive performance by Kaka given that he was nowhere near fully fit during a start to the season dogged by injury and then had to play on the left wing, most of the time part of his new team's rigid defensive system.
The 31-year-old Kaka said afterward, "Having played plenty of times against Barcelona I know the importance of the flanks. Tactically it needed to be a match of sacrifices.
"I still need to find my best form. The manager knows where I want to play but every now and again you need to make these sacrifices."
Kaka had not started a game for Milan since making a lackluster debut in a 2-2 draw with Torino in Serie A last month and limping off with a thigh injury.
He also looked a shadow of the player he once was when he made a 20-minute cameo appearance in a drab 1-0 win over Sampdoria on Spetember 28.
Milan fans, however, have been unstinting in their support for a player who refused his wages while out injured.
"All this affection from the fans is an extra motivation for me," said Kaka. "Every time you play at the San Siro is special."
AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri heaped praise on Kaka after the Brazilian forward's impressive display.
Having spent the past month looking nervously at his casualty list, Allegri welcomed the result against a Barcelona side that won the title in 2011 and has made it to the past two semifinals.
"I'm happy with our overall performance. Mistakes are part of the game and conceding a goal against Barcelona is always to be expected," said Allegri.
But he had a special mention for Kaka, who returned from a month-long injury layoff in a 1-0 league win over Udinese on Saturday to produce a display which Allegri says should serve as an example.
"Kaka showed the champion he is, not just in terms of his technical ability," said Allegri.
"He played an intelligent game. He was an example for the rest of the side."
Milan next face Barcelona away on November 6, visit Celtic nearly three weeks later and wrap up their bid for a place in the last 16 knockout phase by hosting Ajax on December 11.
Allegri now hopes Kaka, who moved to Milan on a free transfer from Barcelona's arch-rivals Real Madrid, can be as inspirational at the Nou Camp next month.
"We all know how much Kaka can contribute to this side," said the Italian.
Agencies - Global Times