Clarence Seedorf held his debut Press conference as Milan Coach and pledged to “rediscover enthusiasm, joy and fun in playing football.”
The Dutchman arrived this week to replace Massimiliano Allegri and begins his career against Verona at San Siro on Sunday. It kicks off at 19.45 GMT, click here for a match preview.
“I’m very happy to be back home. I want to work and transmit some of my enthusiasm to the players, which I think is fundamental for players,” he said.
“These were also my first words, to rediscover the enthusiasm, joy and fun in playing football, training and doing this job.
“I believe difficult moments must be analysed, but above all with the thought of how to resolve those issues, without losing sight of your abilities. This team has certainly not expressed its true value, but these things can happen.
“At such an important club, there are no doubts the situation will return to what it was. It’s all about how you work, with enthusiasm, optimism and the desire to do what we all enjoy – which is to play football, bring fans to the stadium and be convinced of our style.
“It is easier to get a result when you play good football, so that is fundamental. I’ve seen many of the Milan games so far and am convinced they deserve more points than they currently have.”
Seedorf was asked what his initial target would be in improving Milan’s Serie A standing, as they are only in 11th place.
“We know the table is an ugly thing to look at in these situations, so we’ll try to avoid that for the moment. The important thing is to get back that team spirit, as for a while the situation has been delicate.
“I am pleased to see nobody is blaming anyone else, so this is a united squad. When you enjoy your football the legs feel lighter, the mind is clearer and that is something we can work on immediately, whereas tactics take more time.
“I trust the support of our fans will as always be the 12th Man, who I knew throughout my career and I’ve already seen over the last few days. I’m convinced the fans will give the energy the team needs and that the players will respond in kind to take Milan back to where they belong.”
Seedorf has won four Champions League trophies with three different clubs, so how is he feeling ahead of his first ever match as a Coach?
“It is curious, but I feel good and must thank Milan for making me feel so at home after a long time away. I see the joy and energy in their eyes, which fired me up even more, but I am also relaxed. There are many more serious problems in life, so we must face these issues with a sense of balance.
“I know most of the players and the staff. Mauro Tassotti has been very important for the club over the years and we are already working well together. We hope to bring Milan back to where they belong for the Rossoneri fans and all of Italy.
“I am someone who feels everything very intensely, so I can’t help but be excited at this great opportunity and I’m very happy to build a new career in a place where I already had so many wonderful moments.”
Seedorf only retired a few days ago, terminating his contract with Botafogo five months early to take the Milan job.
“I have everything to prove. Now a new career begins, I feel ready for the challenge, but it will be the work and the results that must confirm I can win this challenge and live up to the expectations. I do feel ready and I like challenges, there’s nothing better than to begin such an important new career at the top level where you played for many years and can help them reach their objectives.”
It is no secret that President Silvio Berlusconi and his daughter Barbara were instrumental in the decision to sack Allegri and bring in Seedorf.
“You all know of the rapport I have with the President and our affection is evident. He has done a great deal for football in Italy and the world, so I am happy and honoured to have his faith in me. The same goes for Adriano Galliani, as we’ve discussed contracts and gone through moments of joy and tension over 10 years. Those emotions are what football is all about and I’m happy to be back experiencing these with them.”
Seedorf studiously tried to avoid mentioning predecessor Allegri or criticising his approach.
“I think it’s important to look forward, not back. We can learn from the past, certainly, but I believe difficult moments help people to grow in terms of character. We’ll try to look at the glass half-full.
“I always said systems depend on the players you have at your disposal. This team has played 4-3-3 and various other shapes, but I will play 4-2-3-1 because I want to make the most of the great quality we have in attack to develop an even more attacking approach.
“Milan’s best performances in recent years, for example against Barcelona, was when we were able to stay in the opponent’s half. Attacking is when you get many players near to the box.
“We have time to work, so that is the situation today and it can change tomorrow. I believe more in the philosophy of football than specific tactical movements. We’ll develop those as we get to know each other more.
“Roles are labels, but at the end of the day we are all human beings. It’s great to see you journalists again too, as we spent 10 years together and are all part of the same football world. Even the photographer who has been blinding me with the flash for the last three days!”
Seedorf was spotted having a lengthy conversation with Mario Balotelli during Friday’s training session.
“Mario is a very sweet boy. I already knew him a little bit before and we all know his qualities. I am here to support him, help him to grow and he seems very eager to work with me. I am confident.
“I think it is very important for players and Coach to communicate and collaborate, as the more information we all have, the better a job we can do.
“Seeing Kaka here means I’ve found another old friend. I know that I can count on him above all as a person. He also proved his worth on the pitch again and will set an example for his teammates.
“I also know Nigel De Jong, as there’s a photograph of me playing for Ajax with him as a ball boy. He’s an exceptional guy and a great professional, so I’m happy to meet him again here.”
Seedorf’s debut will be against Hellas Verona, who are fresh from a 3-0 home defeat to Napoli, but beat Milan 2-1 in the opening weekend.
“They are a side to be respected and we know they have a great striker like Luca Toni who can put the ball in the net. The squad is enthusiastic and we’ll talk about what we will do. It’s important that our opponents feel the weight of San Siro when they face us.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £11,000 to be won monthly!