Real Madrid are set to boost their team for the new year with a former World Player of the Year without spending a penny when they return from La Liga's winter break for a local derby at Getafe on Monday.
Brazil playmaker Kaka has been out for five months since having surgery on his left knee but he has returned to training and delighted Real fans with some exquisite touches in a practice match open to the general public on Thursday.
"He's been out a long time but he's already showing that he is a Ballon d'Or winner. I'm sure he's going to bring us many days of glory," team mate Pedro Leon said.
Kaka has struggled to live up to his 65 million euro ($86.91 million) price tag since switching from AC Milan in 2009 and a string of injuries, combined with doubts over his commitment. The 28-year-old's return on Monday, or perhaps in the King's Cup on Thursday, gives coach Jose Mourinho options going forward with striker Gonzalo Higuain still injured.
Mourinho also has to shuffle his defence with first-choice centre backs Ricardo Carvalho and Pepe suspended. Sergio Ramos and Raul Albiol are likely to deputise. Both Real and Getafe have won their last five games in all competitions, but the seventh-placed hosts have a knack of upsetting their neighbours at the Coliseum. They have lost only twice to Real there in the last six seasons.
Second-placed Madrid trail leaders Barcelona by two points, and they could start their match five adrift with the in-form champions hosting promoted Levante on Sunday. Barca are unbeaten in 23 outings in all competitions. Pep Guardiola also has to make changes in defence with Carles Puyol injured and Gerard Pique suspended, while top scorer Lionel Messi has permission not to return from holiday until Jan. 2 and will probably be rested. New signing, Dutch midfielder Ibrahim Afellay, could make his debut.
WC referee Webb honoured
London: World Cup final referee Howard Webb has been awarded an MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours. Webb became the first Englishman to referee the World Cup final since 1974 when he took charge of the showpiece between Spain and the Netherlands. Graeme McDowell andMike Catt were also awarded MBEs.