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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Real Madrid seals Kaka deal

RECIFE, Brazil (AP) Brazil midfielder Kaka finalized his move to Real Madrid on Monday, marking the end of a "soap opera" that will usher in a new phase of his career in Spain.

"Now the soap opera is over," said Kaka, decked out in a yellow Brazilian national term jersey after a practice session ahead of Wednesday's Brazil-Paraguay qualifier in this northeastern coastal city. "The only leftover details were the medical exams, and I've done them. The negotiations are closed and I have sealed my transfer to Real Madrid."

Real Madrid announced the signing of the attacking midfielder from AC Milan earlier Monday. The Spanish club gave no financial details but reports said Madrid will pay Milan $92 million for Kaka, making it one of the richest deals in football history.

The largest previous transfer was set by Zinedine Zidane when he joined Madrid from Juventus for $65 million in 2001.

Kaka, who passed a medical earlier Monday, signed a six-year contract.

"Kaka is one of the players that every team would like to have and Madrid had the chance to get him," Madrid president Florentino Perez told radio station Onda Cero just before the signing was announced.

Kaka is the first player to join Madrid since Perez regained the club presidency unopposed last week.

Perez has said he intends to revive his "galactico" policy which, along with Zidane, attracted star players like David Beckham, Ronaldo and Luis Figo to Madrid earlier in the decade.

Kaka called Perez' strategy "an interesting sports project."

"He's trying to buy other players, and I think he can make a very offensive team," he told a media conference. "That's behind my decision to go to this team."

Kaka said he talked with Beckham about his transfer, and the England veteran said it would be the best step for his career.

"I hope to be part of this new project and help to win titles, both European and Spanish," he said.

Kaka, the 2007 FIFA world player of the year, turned down a record transfer to Manchester City last season.

Presently in Brazil for World Cup qualifiers, Kaka will travel to South Africa with the national team for the June 14-28 Confederations Cup.

Despite previously saying he was happy at Milan, the size of Madrid's bid appears to have proved too much for the Italian club to ignore.

Last week, Milan president Silvio Berlusconi and chairman Adriano Galliani said the club had made huge financial losses in recent times.

Madrid's interest in signing Kaka goes back some years. Former Madrid president Ramon Calderon pledged to sign the player in 2006 when he was running for election.

Perez told Onda Cero that Madrid's pursuit of the 27-year-old, whose real name is Ricardo Ezecson Dos Santos Leite, was aided by a collaborative agreement it has with Milan.

Milan vice president Adriano Galliani was reportedly in the Spanish capital last Tuesday to pave the way for the deal, along with Kaka's father and manager Bosco Leite.

Perez is expected to attempt to sign several more top names for Madrid before the start of next season.

Vying for one spot

SEOUL (AP) South Korea, Japan and Australia may have filled three of Asia's four automatic World Cup qualification spots with two rounds still to play, but the battle for the last slot will be fiercely contested between Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Iran.

These three Asian heavyweights all have prior experience in football's showpiece event, but only one will be celebrating on June 17 when the fourth and final full round of continental qualifying ends. One will miss out completely and one will have to settle for third place in the group and a play off series in October and November.

South Korea, which qualified for a seventh consecutive World Cup when it beat United Arab Emirates 2-0 last weekend, holds the fate of North Korea in its hands — ironic considering the recent heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.

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