Kaka Continues to Play Himself into Contention as Real Madrid Win at Deportivo

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2013

Gonzalo Higuain rolled in the late winner that struck a massive blow to Deportivo la Coruna's survival hopes, but it was Kaka who most intrigued on a night where Real Madrid did just enough to forget about their away-day blues.

As the clock ticked down and the draw approached, the 30-year-old played an exquisite reverse pass to Cristiano Ronaldo who proceeded to unselfishly square for Higuain to tap home.

Barely 15 minutes earlier, it was Kaka who had drawn Los Blancos level.

Collecting a pass on the edge of the box from Angel Di Maria, he steadied himself before effortlessly curling the ball past Daniel Aranzubia. 

Coupled with his part in the winner and his 91 percent pass completion rate (via whoscored.com), it was a performance to cast minds back to why he was once the owner of the coveted Ballon d'Or.

His combination play with the Argentinian was particularly good throughout the 90 minutes.

It would, of course, be easy to suggest that one swallow doesn't make a summer, except for the fact this is the third straight La Liga game in which Kaka has looked to be showing signs of a mini-renaissance. 

Testament to this is the fact that, on the hour—with Madrid trailing 1-0 in the Estadio Riazor—Mourinho decided it was time to use his trump cards. Mesut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo and Sami Khedira stripped down to come on, yet this time, they were not replacing the former AC Milan player.

Instead, off went Luka Modric, Michael Essien and Marcelo, and although the fresh legs were the catalyst for the comeback victory, few could argue it was Kaka who provided the impetus for the turnaround.

Two weeks ago against Sevilla, the signs were there as Real Madrid recorded a comfortable win at the Bernabeu. In 70 minutes, he looked better than he had done for large parts of the season, even if awarding him the assist for Ronaldo's first goal is a touch generous.

Last week against Rayo Vallecano, Spanish paper Marca rightly hailed him as "one of the best players," while Kaka himself—speaking to the same paper—expressed that he was beginning to feel better about his football:

"I feel lighter. I can pull off things on the pitch that didn't work for me before. I'm getting mentally stronger all the time."

Before Saturday's win over Deportivo, Real Madrid had already lost five games away from home in La Liga—including their last game on the road at Granada—as well as losing at Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey.

In Galicia, though, they bore witness to Kaka's comments that he is getting mentally stronger as he produced a fine performance for the third weekend running.

The problem for the Brazilian now is Real Madrid's run of fixtures: Barcelona, Barcelona, Manchester United.

The question is, for all the good he has done in the last few weeks keeping Madrid within touching distance of Atletico, has he done enough to play his way into Mourinho's 11 for the big games coming up?

Saturday night's performance suggests he's at least given the Portuguese coach some food for thought.