Saturday February 8 2014
Seedorf stands up for Balotelli

Clarence Seedorf insisted Mario Balotelli’s tears were not “abnormal” and defended Milan’s performance against Napoli.

Balotelli burst into tears on the bench after his substitution as the Rossoneri fumbled a lead to lose 3-1 at the San Paolo.

“We are players and there are times when we express ourselves that way. I see nothing wrong or abnormal in that. I experienced it at times too,” the Coach told Sky Sport Italia.

“He too needs to grow in general. He played very well against Cagliari, while tonight perhaps didn’t make the most of the space. These are things we can all improve on and I’m happy he has so many areas to improve, as I can help him through that education.”

Adel Taarabt scored on his Serie A debut, but Gokhan Inler and a Gonzalo Higuain brace turned it all around.

“Taarabt had a great debut. He showed a lot of quality, worked hard and scored a great goal. He presented himself well, didn’t he?”

Seedorf explained some of his unusual choices, such as benching Riccardo Montolivo and pushing Ignazio Abate into the attacking trio behind Balotelli.

“It was a step backwards in terms of the result, but I also saw many positive things. Unfortunately we had prepared it a certain way, then Kaka and Keisuke Honda got ill, so I had to make changes.

“We didn’t have all the players to use this system. I saw Ignazio was struggling a little in the first half, so I moved Urby Emanuelson there as I’ve seen him play there a few times under Allegri.

“I wanted to make two substitutions after the break, but had to preserve one, so I opted to move the players around instead.

“We’ve got the Champions League coming up and Kaka would’ve played if he hadn’t been ill for three days with a fever. As well as to get as many points as possible, my job is to help improve the players who I found in not great physical condition. That takes time.”

Another surprise was Philippe Mexes wearing the captain’s armband rather than Cristian Abbiati.

“We have many centre-backs and he had been out for a while, so I thought it would add further motivation and responsibility to make him feel a part of this group.

“Montolivo is in good shape and he was calm, as I said we cannot just think about the next game. We have to plan, we’ve got a Champions League tie coming up without Montolivo or Sulley Muntari, so I cannot get there without testing the alternatives. Michael Essien hasn’t played much recently and therefore needs time on the field to gain match-fitness.

“I saw this game in a different way. We stayed united and didn’t split in two, I told Adel to keep tracking back even to the edge of his own box and my job now is to see these positive aspects.”