Wednesday January 15 2014
Does Seedorf have the Midas touch?

Milan have turned to their past in hiring Clarence Seedorf. Luca Cetta examines the decision to appoint someone who until the weekend was still a player.

With one Press conference a glittering playing career was stopped in favour of a journey into the unknown. It happened in Brazil but was of keen interest to those in Italy. Clarence Seedorf was trading his boots for a suit. “I am here to announce that I will retire from playing after 22 years. It has been a difficult decision, but I am satisfied with what I have achieved in my career and what I have done here at Botafogo.”

A sudden retirement. But there was a key motivation behind it. Milan had come calling. “I could not say no to Milan after spending 10 years with the Rossoneri,” Seedorf would add.

Massimiliano Allegri had already given word of his departure set for June, but Sunday’s incredible 4-3 loss against Sassuolo hastened his exit. The club felt they had to act immediately. Barbara Berlusconi noted on Sunday night it was: “necessary and urgent to make a change.” Change they did.

For club and Coach it’s perhaps better this way. Something was clearly awry this season. The Rossoneri collected just 22 points in the first half of the campaign. Only five wins. They sit in 11th. Allegri can now rest his weary neck – one which had been resting on the chopping block for over a year.

For Seedorf it’s a return to the club which brought him great success as a player. The Dutchman was a midfielder of supreme talent. Technically gifted, cool on the ball and with a keen eye for the game around him. In his later years Seedorf was a locker room leader. Does that translate to the coaching arena? He thinks the time at Botafogo will serve him well: “This experience of the last year and a half has made me grow up a lot and will help me in my next step, as Coach of Milan...”

What can Seedorf bring to Milanello? He’s a fresh face. He was, until recently, still a player and so knows the modern footballer and game. More importantly, he was a winner and can instil that into the current group. “He knows the environment,” said assistant Coach Mauro Tassotti. “I hope that there is a change of mentality and a return to the old values.” This may be the jolt the players need, a reminder of which shirt they wear.

“I am sorry for Milan but, if Seedorf arrives, he can do very well on the Milan bench,” ex-teammate Thiago Silva stated. “Clarence is sure to change the mentality, because he is a serious person, capable of change.” Carlo Ancelotti also praised the former Dutch international: “I know Clarence very well, he was always a player who showed huge personality. I’m sure that he has the knowledge and ability to do anything in the world of football.” It seems those who have worked alongside Seedorf have nothing but praise.

Conversely, the reins of one of Italy’s most glittering clubs have been handed to a person with no coaching experience. And at a delicate time. As it stands, Milan are 20 points from third spot and have a difficult upcoming Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid to negotiate.

Former Milan star Ruud Gullit admitted ‘surprise’ over the move. Seedorf walks into the role bereft of time. Things have happened so quickly. There was no pre-season to drill his ideas into the squad, rather it’s straight into the action with little time for experimentation. He’s expected to be joined by former teammates Hernan Crespo and Jaap Stam, the latter with two-and-a-half years’ experience as an assistant Coach. And there’s Tassotti, who has been in his current role for over a decade.

The new boss needs his big players to shine. From veteran Christian Abbiati through to Ricky Kaka, captain Riccardo Montolivo, Nigel de Jong, Philippe Mexes and Mario Balotelli. The latter duo must show greater discipline. The arrival of Keisuke Honda and Adil Rami, plus the return from injury of Giampaolo Pazzini, boosts the squad.

Interestingly, last May the Curva Sud released a statement against the appointment of “Seedorf or others who have zero experience on the bench.” Two days later ultras unfurled a banner outside Milan’s headquarters: ‘Seedorf, no grazie’. How will fans react to this move?

Ancelotti argued this is nothing new for Milan. They appointed Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello in the past and it worked out well then. True, but the pair had spent some time on various benches when Silvio Berlusconi came calling and they had fantastic squads too. Seedorf is only allowed into the role due to special dispensation. He does not yet have his coaching badges.

So what will constitute a successful half-season for Seedorf? A trophy – most likely the Coppa Italia – would be nice, but importantly there must be signs of improvement.

The appointment has BerlusconiSilvio and Barbara – written all over it, so the new tactician will have support. That should help on the summer transfer market. For now, Milan fans will be happy the Allegri saga finally reached its conclusion. Now the Rossoneri goes forth with a legend. They’re hoping he’ll sprinkle some of his playing magic on to the current lot.

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Have your say...
I want to be optimistic about Seedorf's appointment, but this is a very big leap for him to take. I would have liked to see the appointment of a figure with Conte's characteristics: someone with charisma, but who will give the players a blasting when they don't put the effort in. And I strongly believe Luca Cetta is right when he says the players need to be reminded of what shirt they are wearing.
on the 15th January, 2014 at 11:06am
I found Tassotti's words rather damning. Hopefully a return to the old values... Why exactly couldn't Allegri instil this in the squad? I seriously question the coach's motivation for this half season. He should have left in the summer instead of putting the club and the fans through this.
on the 15th January, 2014 at 11:04am
If he has no more interst or is no longer of sound mind he should sell up. I'm not after some oligarch or some sheik just someone who can afford to own a Serie A time and is borderline sane.
on the 15th January, 2014 at 10:12am
Milan fans now have a simple choice. Either we get behind the club's "unusual" choice and hope it turns out okay. Or we need to see widespread protests calling for Galliani to resign and for Berlusconi to sell. I am inclined to take the former approach but can completely understand if fans choose the latter. Milan is one of the most famous clubs in the world with a great history (including before Berlusconi). Berlusconi has managed to achieve great success with the club but he is not Milan.
on the 15th January, 2014 at 10:10am
However given Milan's present predicament now is surely not the time for experimenting. Milan could be relegated if they do not sort out the current mess. What we needed now was an experienced hand to steady the ship. The likelihood of Seedorf with no experience coming and miraculously turning things round like some Hollywood movie is quite slim. I would even have taken Trapatoni ahead of him at least who bring some experience and discipline.Di Matteo has a track record for turning Chelsea round
on the 15th January, 2014 at 10:04am
There is a chance that Seedorf could be another Capello/Sacchi (i.e. managerial novices who turned out to be hugely successful) or even his fellow compatriots Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkard who all had varying degrees of success in management. The odds are certainly stacked against this being the case since its not every day you find a Capello or a Sacchi and as the author mentions they had some experience on the bench and had decent squads.
on the 15th January, 2014 at 9:58am

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