MADRID Kaka, Luka Modric and debutant Jose Rodriguez showcased the past, present and future of the Real Madrid midfield as the trio lit up the Bernabeu in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Real manager Jose Mourinho fielded a weakened team for their final Group D match at home to Ajax Amsterdam, with a place already secured in the last 16, and they swept aside the Dutch side 4-1.
Kaka scored the goal of the game, driving forward from midfield and curling a wonderful shot into the top corner just after the re-start, drawing an admiring gesture from Mourinho on the touchline.
It was a reminder of why Real splashed around 65 million euros ($85.06 million) on him three years ago, but the highlights have been few and far between and the under-performing Brazil playmaker's days are thought to be numbered at the Bernabeu.
Mourinho openly declared the former World Player-of-the-Year's future was 'in the air' during the close season, but he stayed and has largely been restricted to substitute appearances.
Last week, the president of Los Angeles Galaxy owners AEG Tim Leiweke said the Major League Soccer side had made their interest known to the player.
"I am playing a little less this season, but I do what I have to do and await my opportunities. I always respect the coach's decisions," Kaka, who was captain for the game, told reporters afterwards.
"I have always said I am delighted to stay on here. I'm fine and I have a contract until 2015. I will wait and see what the club decide and what their position is. In the summer we found a solution, and I keep training and doing my part."
One of the players helping to keep Kaka on the sidelines is Croatia midfielder Modric, who had one of his best games yet in a Real Madrid shirt, though he faded in the second half.
Signed from Tottenham Hotspur in August for a figure that could rise to 40 million euros, the 27-year-old has taken time to adapt, but shone in a deep-lying midfield role alongside Sami Khedira, a position normally occupied by the rested Xabi Alonso.
He won a crunching tackle and started the move for the opening goal with a long pass over the top in the 13th minute and spun away from a marker to launch another raking long pass for Jose Callejon, which led to the second before the half hour.
"He did well. He has played some very good games for us and nobody, if they are being honest, could say he is not an important player for us," Mourinho said of Modric, whose purchase has been questioned in the local media.
"He is a potential starter for the team. It isn't possible for everyone to play, but he plays to a very high standard."
Youth team midfielder Rodriguez became Real's youngest Champions League debutant when he came on for Kaka in the second half.
At 17 years and 11 months he beat the record set by former Spain striker Raul, who debuted, also against Ajax in 1995, aged 18 years and two months.
"He's a lad we like a lot," Mourinho said. "He is developing and you can imagine that when he is 20 he will be playing at the Real Madrid first team level.
"At 17, you can throw him into the King's Cup, the Champions League or La Liga and he plays without fear."
($1 = 0.7642 euros)
(Reporting by Mark Elkington, editing by Patrick Johnston)