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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Kaka ushers in new era of Real Madrid 'galacticos'

MADRID (AP) Kaka ushered in Real Madrid's latest "galactico" era as the Spanish club gave the Brazil player a rock star welcome with an unveiling in front of at least 50,000 fans on Tuesday.

After president Florentino Perez introduced Kaka for the first time since his 65 million euro ($92 million) acquisition from AC Milan, the 27-year-old playmaker shook his head in delight as fans chanted his name at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"Today is a very special day for me. I'm very happy about this new step in my career at Real Madrid," said Kaka, who will wear the No. 8 shirt. "Viva Madrid!"

Kaka, who passed his medical earlier Tuesday, and Cristiano Ronaldo are Perez's major summer signings as he bids to make up for a season without silverware.

"There are no words for today, it's an unforgettable day," Kaka said through a translator. "All of this is a great honor and responsibility, and not a negative responsibility but a positive one. I hope we can win titles and many victories."

Kaka took the stage in front of a backdrop featuring photos of iconic Madrid players Alfredo di Stefano, Raul Gonzalez, Juanito and Zinedine Zidane. Accompanied by a young fan donning the first Kaka jersey, he subsequently did a tour of one half of the 80,000-capcity stadium to sign autographs and salute to the pumped-up masses.

"He's very good," said 10-year-old Tony Castano, clad in a Madrid jersey. "I hope he can help the club win the league and Champions League this season."

Hopes are high at Madrid, which failed to get past the first knockout stage of Europe's top-tier competition for the fifth straight season and lost the league to bitter rival Barcelona, which became the first Spanish club to win the treble last season.

"Madrid has everything in terms of a fascinating team. And it's always been a reference for great players," Kaka said. "The project is very good. I can't wait to play."

Kaka agreed to a six-year contract with Madrid and will team up with Ronaldo, the world player of the year who Madrid acquired for a transfer record £80 million ($131 million).

"We're compatible players and I think we'll be able to play alongside without a problem," said Kaka, who had just helped his country to victory at the Confederations Cup in South Africa, where he was named the tournament's best player.

Valencia joins United

MANCHESTER , England (AP) Manchester United has signed Antonio Valencia from Wigan on a four-year contract.

The 23-year-old Ecuador winger is manager Alex Ferguson's first offseason signing as he begins spending the £80 million ($132 million) Real Madrid is paying for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ferguson will hope Valencia can replicate the pace and dribbling ability of Ronaldo.

Ferguson said Tuesday: "Antonio is a player we have admired for some time now, having spent the last two years in the Premier League with Wigan. I am sure his pace and ability will make a significant contribution to the team."

Di Matteo moves up

WEST BROMWICH , England (AP) Roberto Di Matteo has been appointed the new head coach of West Bromwich Albion.

West Brom announced on Tuesday that the former Italy international midfielder, who played in the English Premier League for Chelsea, had signed an open-ended 12-month contract with the Baggies, who were relegated last season and lost popular manager Tony Mowbray to Celtic.



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