ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - Brazilian soccer star Kaká signed a multiyear contract on Tuesday with Orlando City, a new Florida franchise scheduled to join Major League Soccer in January 2015.
Kaká, 32, was introduced to thousands of fans at a downtown Orlando World Cup viewing party featuring the United States against Belgium for a place in the quarter-finals.
“I’m so happy to be here in America,” he told a throng cheering his name when he took the stage at halftime, wearing a purple Orlando City T-shirt.
Team spokesman Jhamie Chin said the club would not release the length of the contract or the dollar amount. The club’s Brazilian-born owner, Flávio Augusto da Silva, said on his Facebook page that the deal was for three-and-a-half years.
Kaká on Monday opted out of his deal with the Italian Serie A tem AC Milan and flew to Orlando for the signing and the official announcement.
“He’s a legend. It’s crazy that he’s here,” said Analis Pena, 21, an Orlando college student who fell in love with the sport through her Colombian-born parents.
Matthew Marques, 24, who works in an Orlando running store, said Kaká has plenty of good playing years left in him.
“Having him is going to make a very big difference. The whole world is talking about Kaká signing. Orlando City now is on the map,” Marques said.
Chin said: “This is one of the biggest signings Major League Soccer has ever had. Kaká could have gone to any team in the world and he chose Orlando.”
The deal with Orlando allows Kaká, whose full name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, to play for six months through the end of this year for his home club, São Paulo.
“I think when (team owner) Flavio explained that to Kaká and showed him the interest that was building in Orlando, it was a no-brainer for him,” Chin said.
Kaká, an attacking midfielder, won the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 2007, and played for the World Cup-winning Brazil team in 2002.
Chin said the signing was almost as significant as Englishman David Beckham’s 2007 move to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Beckham is trying to bring an MLS franchise to Miami.
Editing by David Adams, Jim Loney and Mohammad Zargham