What's your game plan?
At age 35, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, or quite simply Kaká, looks back at a career that only very few can match in his sport. He has won everything there is to win in soccer, but most importantly, he has never lost his passion for the game.
As his career draws to a close I sat down with the attacking midfielder to reflect on the creativity that delighted the crowds in the San Siro, Bernabéu and Maracanã stadiums and discuss what he learned about leadership and motivation as a team captain.
This is Kaká’s game plan.
When you enter the pitch, something about you changes. What is it?
The confidence and motivation you have when you get on the field changes your entire posture. It’s like you’re going into a fight. You are fighting for your life and, in that moment, your body shows all the strength, power and agility it has.
It also shows amazing creativity.
Yes, I love being creative. For me, creativity is building something from nothing. But it takes more than you would think to do that. Most importantly, you need to identify the source of your creativity and build on that. In my case, my creativity on the field is highly dependent on my instincts.
What do you do to develop your instincts?
It’s all about training and trying. My body needs to learn what it is capable of. I repeat certain exercises every day to internalize movements and reactions. It then takes some courage to give it a try it in a game when you’re under pressure.
Passion for the game is not enough to make it to the top. Why were you successful?
My passion for the game has always been about the discipline and the sacrifice that I had to give to achieve what I really wanted. Everybody has a dream, but it depends on what you are willing to sacrifice to achieve that dream. If you are not determined enough, it just remains a dream. I once dreamed about learning to play the guitar, but I didn’t do anything to get there and so it never happened. When I started dreaming about becoming a soccer player, I sacrificed everything to achieve my goal and, luckily, it all worked out.
You have been in the business for a very long time. Did you ever lose your motivation?
Yes, I’ve lost my motivation a few times, be it because of injuries or bad results. At some point, it was simply because I had achieved everything that I could in my sport. As a soccer player, I have won the Italian League, the Champions League and the World Cup. Where would I go from there? Eventually, I decided to focus on developing myself. From that day onwards, I’ve always worked extra hard to become better than I was yesterday – in my business, as a father, as a partner and in all other areas of life.
As a team captain, you also have to motivate your players. How do you do that?
As captain, I always try to be the first who comes to training. When you’re working harder than everybody else, you’ve already won a lot. Of course, you sometimes need to have a word with them to make a point, but your actions will always speak louder than words.
In the end, every player is different and so are the situations they are in. You need to consider this before giving advice. Some players need extra pressure, others just need someone who’s there for them. The advice I give also depends on the character of the player and the relationship we have. While you have to be very mindful with your words and actions, I’ve always loved bearing this responsibility as a captain.