Seedorf – Burning With Ambition
Kaka may have stolen the headlines but the Brazilian was the first to highlight Seedorf’s contribution last season. “For Milan, it’s essential that Clarence plays. He can turn it on at the highest level. He was super against Bayern Munich and against Manchester United he was absolutely fantastic. If you can do that, then you’re a big player.”
In the tradition of top Dutch players, Seedorf likes to have his say. That is fine with Ancelotti, whose coaching philosophy is rooted in dialogue. But Seedorf’s strong opinions have not always endeared him to coaches elsewhere. Before EURO 2004, he told Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat that he would only play if he could do so in his favourite role behind the strikers, a position in which Advocaat preferred Ajax’s Rafael van der
Vaart, now of German club Hamburg. “Rafael has more scoring ability,” the coach said. “I explained that to Seedorf but Clarence didn’t agree. He disputes everything.”
It would be misleading, however, to characterise Seedorf as some kind of maverick or loose cannon. On the pitch, he is competitive but controlled, modelling himself on former Milan and Netherlands midfielder Frank Rijkaard, now Barcelona coach, precisely for the “tranquillity Rijkaard used to transmit to his team-mates on the pitch.”
Off the pitch, Seedorf is quiet and thoughtful, even serious. When asked earlier this year about some of the problems facing Italian football, he replied: “We players can mean a lot more if we are more conscious of our responsibility to society. We would like families back in the stadiums but we should reach out our hands and start leading by example.” Having set up his own charitable foundation, Champions for Children, and having invested in building a stadium in his native Suriname, Seedorf is doing just that, leading by example.
Despite having league championship medals in the Netherlands, Spain and Italy to add to his Champions League haul, Seedorf is still burning with ambition to win something on the international stage. “It is about achieving things that I have not yet achieved. I still have the will to play in EUROs and World Cups. The desire is even greater now because I’m coming towards the end of my career. The clock is ticking. But you acquire the awareness about what you need to do to get results; to keep finding ways of getting the best out of yourself and the team.”
That would make Milan and the Netherlands the teams to look out for in 2008.