When players usually retire, there is usually a sort of honeymoon period. Some golf, a nice holiday, family time. Rarely does a player retire and immediately throw himself back into the world he just exited, let alone into a greater spotlight than the one he just switched off.
For Clarence Seedorf, there is no such transition.
“I like challenges, and coaching Milan will be another challenge in my career,” Clarence Seedorf told Brazilian press at an announcement on Monday afternoon, and it’s probably safe to say that this particular challenge will be the Dutchman’s most difficult of his professional career.
For the first time in a near 25 year career, Clarence Seedorf will be in a position where he has no experience. He has never coached at any level, professional or otherwise and has less experience than fellow former Milan player Filippo Inzaghi, who possesses a modest youth career coaching the Allievi Nazionali, the under-17 section of the Rossoneri’s youth set-up.
There is no indication of his coaching style – other than knowledge of his personality and as a player, which at the moment remain the only justifications of his appointment.
With that in mind however, there is probably no more qualified player to make such a leap of this magnitude than Clarence Seedorf.
Multi-lingual, intelligent and a proven winner as a player – Seedorf possesses the necessary intangibles to lead a group of players, as displayed by his considerable characteristics and experience as one of the vice-captains of Milan for a large portion of his Rossoneri career.
This sort of move is also not unique in Silvio Berlusconi’s reign as president of AC Milan; the patriarch famously handed Arrigo Sacchi the keys to his burgeoning Milan project in 1987 despite no Serie A coaching experience. It is said that Parma’s Coppa Italia victory over Milan was enough to convince Berlusconi, who allowed Sacchi’s intense training and football philosophy to be conveyed to a group of players with swathes of experience at the highest level – a situation that negatively compared with Sacchi, who had never played himself. The rest, as they say is history.
When Arrigo Sacchi exited Milan, his successor Fabio Capello received his first head coaching role in charge of Berlusconi’s Rossoneri, and promptly led the side to three consecutive league titles between 1992 and 1994, including a 4-0 thrashing of Johan Cruyff’s heralded Barcelona in the 1994 European Cup final, despite playing without Franco Baresi or Marco Van Basten.
Seedorf’s character and personality has seemingly made the same impression on Berlusconi and his ambitious daughter, who essentially confirmed Massimiliano Allegri’s departure without an official consultation with her father or Adriano Galliani. For two thirds of Milan’s senior management, it seems Seedorf was always intended for the role.
Additionally, the all-star coaching staff that is set to join the Dutchman next season including current Ajax assistant coach Jaap Stam and Hernan Crespo indicate that the transition had been part of a genuine plan for some time. The only difference is that the first-time coach will have six months extra to get his ideas across to his new group of players, and perhaps decide which ones he wants to take with him for next season and beyond.
Allegri’s sacking with Milan sitting 30 points behind table-topping Juventus has almost wiped away any possibility of returning to a Champions League place, so any quantification of success is really predicated on an improvement in performance, morale and a position above where they are currently.
There is no guarantee that Seedorf will be a success – there is a possibility that the Dutchman could fail under the pressure, and out that the tactical hostility of Serie A coaching could be overwhelming for a rookie, a novice with no experience.
However, Silvio Berlusconi has entrusted the future of the Rossoneri to one of the most intelligent, charismatic and driven players in its history, one who demands respect from his players and has a reputation for inspiring those around him, on and off the pitch. It could well be a success, after all.
“His lack of experience? It’s not the first time that Milan made a choice of this type,” Ex-Milan player and coach Carlo Ancelotti told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“It already happened with Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello. And in both occasions, things turned out very well.”
Milan are hoping that they can make it three out of three.
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