5 Reasons Why Clarence Seedorf Has Been Perfect for AC Milan
Not three months have passed, and Clarence Seedorf has already had to answer questions about the safety of his job. Only three times this century have AC Milan changed managers midseason, but the Rossoneri have already reportedly thought about firing him.
His record isn’t great. As a first-time manager, Seedorf has only won six of his 15 games in charge of the club.
Currently eight points behind Parma and the final Europa League place, Milan could still chase down a spot in the UEFA competition.
Meanwhile, one point away from 40, they certainly won’t be relegated—unless they go ahead and lose all eight remaining matches.
Milan lost heavily to Atletico Madrid, but they also looked better. They played with urgency. They actually looked like they wanted to win the game.
Seedorf inherited a group short on confidence and strength. For the first few weeks, he specifically complained about the fitness levels of his players, according to Gazzetta (via FIFA.com). This is not his squad.
The team isn't any worse or better. Seedorf has done a good job as a caretaker. The rest of this season is a trial, and so far, despite all the alarms, he has passed the early test. Here are a few reasons why.
Seedorf Is One of Them
Seedorf is careful with his words.
The criticism he doesn’t mind, but he comes to the defence of himself and his team when the media stings with the venom of rumours.
He openly believes in Mario Balotelli, who tries the patience of every manager.
Against Fiorentina, Seedorf told Sky Sport Italia (via Football Italia) that Balotelli impressed him with his "consistency and intensity."
The players are paying him back.
They have won almost as many as they have lost since Seedorf arrived, but the Dutchman still looks like a player, and he can relate.
The players look happy in training, and they’re responding to their coach.
Clarence Is a Student and Teacher of the Game
Seedorf technically does not yet have his full licence, but he has the education. It’s all practical. The best teachers for him came on the field in the form of Fabio Capello, Ancelotti, Guus Hiddink and Sven-Goran Eriksson. They all taught him about the discipline and tactics of the game.
"Clarence thinks 70 percent like a coach, 20 percent like a sporting director, and 10 percent as a player," former Milan psychologist Bruno De Michelis told writer Simon Zwartkruis in his biography of Seedorf (via Goal.com) a few years ago.
Current Millwall manager Ian Holloway marvelled at both Seedorf and Edgar Davids while the duo were doing a TV broadcast. He wanted more of those guys in England.
Writing in The Independent in 2010, Holloway said:
I can't get over how educated they are. They know exactly what they are talking about. They understand football, the formations and the problems teams face. But that just sums up the Dutch for me, and we have to try and educate our lads to the same standard.
Milan players right now are training with one of the smartest men in the game. It is only the beginning. They already showed they can compete with the bigger squads. Milan just can’t strike a balance and go out and beat the provincial sides.
According to Sky Sport Italia (via Football Italia), assistant Mauro Tassotti says all Seedorf needs is time.
Seedorf Giving Milan a Good Test
The rest of this season is a trial.
Seedorf already tinkered with the formation, implementing a 4-2-3-1 with a larger emphasis on running. Milan don’t really have any wingers, and they try to play with pace, but they still have limits.
They can’t play a game of full intensity, let alone two of the same level in a week. Seedorf has tested these players, knowing that he will get to choose who stays and who goes if he’s still the manager by the end of the season.
The Dutchman needs to run his players through solid pre-season training before he gets them to where he wants them to be. However, first he needs to be the one to decide who those players are. He has given a chance to almost every player on the squad in the few games he has managed.
No Outrage from Seedorf, Just Cool
Look at him on the bench. He stands in his long jacket and scarf, looking calm. He is the complete opposite of Massimiliano Allegri, who would yell the same things at his players and look agitated all the time.
Allegri couldn’t bare to watch Balotelli take a penalty.
Seedorf is the kind of individual who shows little. He’ll shake his hands in triumph when Milan score, but he is not going to bark orders every second. He is sitting back and observing his squad.
Does he even take notes?
He is trying to keep his players away from the pressure. That’s why he snapped back at the journalists on Wednesday. He doesn’t like controversy. He protects his team. He will also clarify his words when he sees that media have turned them into something bigger.
Seedorf is no pushover. He is measured and cool.
United in the Dressing Room
The locker room seems peaceful. They’re not satisfied, of course. The results are just too inconsistent.
Seedorf has managed a team coming off one of their worst starts in the era of Silvio Berlusconi. The misery only festered. To keep this squad happy and motivated is tough. Many of these players may not play for Milan next season.
In a season of such turmoil, the dressing room must remain a place of camaraderie. Seedorf has brought a little level-headedness to the club.