Serie A really is the graveyard of tacticians, a League where the Coach is considered to be a commodity who can be scrapped and replaced at the first sign of trouble, so the recent spate of sackings shouldn’t surprise anyone. These clubs believe the simple act of changing the manager will be enough to revive a squad, often regardless of who is actually coming in. Clarence Seedorf has no experience as a tactician and indeed was still playing until a few days ago when the call from Milan arrived. They had finally run out of patience with Massimiliano Allegri, who in turn was fed up of being a lame duck Coach just waiting for the Dutchman to replace him. Top to bottom, nobody at Milan particularly cared how this season went and the apathy showed.
“Seedorf will shake up the team,” explained joint-CEO Adriano Galliani. Is that all it takes now to lead one of the biggest clubs in Italy? Some see novelty as being enough or, as in the case of Catania, going from old to new and back to old again. Rolando Maran’s strange dance with Gigi De Canio felt like the equivalent of turning a computer off and on again, just to see if it might do something. Likewise, Livorno and Bologna continue to look utterly deflated even under new management.
“I want to work and transmit some of my enthusiasm, which I think is fundamental for players,” said Seedorf in his presentation Press conference. “These were also my first words, to rediscover the enthusiasm, joy and fun in playing football, training and doing this job.” Allegri was never the most exuberant figure, but then that never stopped Sir Alex Ferguson from winning everything while maintaining a resolutely grumpy demeanour.
The reason clubs run to shake up the side with a change of management is that it often works. Players suddenly realise they have to impress a new boss and raise their game, while the old favourites are no longer guaranteed a place in the starting XI. I expect Milan will probably beat Verona this evening, mainly because if they don’t manage it with Luca Toni injured and Jorginho sold to Napoli then they never will. A burst of enthusiasm and positive nervous energy can be beneficial, but it tends to be only a short-term solution.
Milan will be hoping Seedorf can follow in the footsteps of Sinisa Mihajlovic, his Sampdoria teammate in 1995-96. Samp are a world away from the apathetic team that started the season under Delio Rossi, as they took an attacking approach at the Juventus Stadium and above all refused to give up. I’ve seen the Blucerchiati play several times this term and it’s difficult to believe it’s the same basic squad. Mihajlovic has certainly brought enthusiasm and passion to the Marassi side, but more importantly this effect is continuing over weeks and months. Can that be achieved with a team of star names the same way as at relegation-threatened Samp?
If Seedorf can give the Rossoneri even a fraction of that attitude brought in by Sinisa, then hiring him will have turned their season around. If he doesn’t, then Milan risk total collapse and Silvio Berlusconi must answer for it.