Kaka, center, shown during a training session Friday at UCLA, is looking… (Mike Nelson / EPA )
Though only in an exhibition match, Real Madrid midfielder Kaka's appearance against the Galaxy on Saturday night represents so much more.
The Brazilian joined Real Madrid in 2009 for a fee equivalent to more than $90 million. His initial season in Spain preceded the World Cup, so amid various international duties, he played only 33 games with Real Madrid — the fewest games he'd played for his club since 2003 — and scored a scant nine goals — his fewest since 2004-05. In his second season with the club, though, those numbers fell further. An August knee surgery and a March thigh injury limited Kaka to 20 games and seven goals, and kept him out of last summer's exhibition against the Galaxy.
"We all know Kaka had a difficult year," Real Madrid defender Ricardo Carvalho said through an interpreter. "But he's fine now. We are all aware of his quality. We're all convinced [he] will help us considerably."
Kaka's return to the Real Madrid roster full time comes as the club looks to build on its Copa del Rey title last season. Also joining Coach Jose Mourinho's squad, defender Fabio Coentrao has nearly as much to prove as a newcomer as Kaka has returning from injury.
Real Madrid signed Coentrao less than two weeks ago, agreeing to a six-year contract worth 30 million euros, equivalent to more than $42 million.
"Time will tell if the price of my transfer is an honor or if it adds more pressure on me," Coentrao said through an interpreter. "I can only respond on the pitch and I want to prove I've got sufficient quality to be worth any amount. I will be confident as I work on this team."
His confidence in his abilities seems to be contagious, as Coentrao's teammates have raved about him all week during their training sessions at UCLA. From midfielder Xabi Alonso to forward Cristiano Ronaldo, the praise has been effusive.
"We knew Fabio, and we knew he was a very gifted, a very complete player," Alonso said through an interpreter. "He can play different roles. So far, he looks very good."
Coentrao's addition brings the Portuguese-speaking contingent of the squad to six, with Kaka, Marcelo and Pepe from Brazil and Coentrao, Ronaldo and Carvalho — the elder-statesman of the group at 33 — from Portugal.
"With Pepe and Cristiano, we're from the same culture so we're more together," Carvalho said through an interpreter. "I feel like a godfather, but I think Coentrao has integrated himself very well."