Tag: AC Milan

Feyenoord Legend “silent” Wim Jansen passes…

Boy, what a sensational team they are developing up there… Van Beveren on goal. Now Van der Kuylen, Cruyff and Rensenbrink up front. Nico Reinders has been there for a while of course. Wim Suurbier as right back and now Wim Jansen joins in to anchor the midfield.

75 years is way too young, but Wim Jansen was struggling with Alzheimers for a while now and he was deteriorating really swiftly.

Wim Jansen is one of those unsung heroes of Dutch football. And that was mainly because he didn’t like being an “ununsung” hero…

But a hero he is. They’ll remember him fondly in Japan, in Glasgow, in Washington DC and in Amsterdam but mainly in Rotterdam (where the fans and the club will hold a memorial for him this coming Saturday in front of De Kuip Stadium).

He started his career like so many kids. But as opposed to most: Wimpie (little Wim) was not your typical rebel rousing streetwise rascal. His parents didn’t enjoy sports. And Wim was a fan of billiards and would always be in time home for supper. His personality was perfect, the ideal son-in-law. Feyenoord doctor Arbarbanel knows it for sure: “He’s a good kid but he will never make it at the top”.

Big Willem of Xerxes versus Little Wim of Feyenoord

When he is 13 years old, he is diagnosed with a knee problem. A “weak knee” is the diagnosis. And he was never to play again. Feyenoord even sent him away. And Wimpie decided to just play on the street, with his mates. Wim lives in the Old North of Rotterdam, where Feyenoord icon Coen Moulijn, the Messi like left winger of Feyenoord, lives. And Wimpie and his mates see their hero drive to the Kuip regularly, all in awe. But a year after Wim’s medical diagnosis, he returns to Feyenoord! He has grown and became stronger and his knee holds it all together well. Wimpie is captain of the C youth team and signs his first semi pro deal at 16 years old. He works the day in the office in the Rotterdam port and in the evening and in the weekend, he makes 30 guilders as a semi pro ( 12 euros). He usually goes to the match with his buddy Jan Boskamp (who would also make it to the NT squad for the 1974 World Cup) and Joop van Daele (who would become world famous for a week or so, as the match winner in the Feyenoord World Cup for teams win).

Wimpie belongs to the Feyenoord inventory, almost. He’s always there and he’s everywhere. When the president is asked in 1966 when a home grown player will make it big, he points at Wim Jansen: “There he is! That lad will be a big player one day”.

And he does make it into the first team, as so-called left inside forward ( in a 3-2-5 system). Coen Moulijn is still with the club and loves playing with Jansen: “I remembered him from the street where I lived. He was a real creative player but that disappeared when he got older. He’s the ultimate team player. A passer of the ball. I loved playing with Jansen more than with Van Hanegem. Wim was the master of one touch and would always launch me. Van Hanegem was harder to predict. And Wim is a nice guy, you know.” And Wim was in awe that he was actually playing the same team as his big idol.

Feyenoord youth team wins title, with Wim Jansen below far right. Next to him Jan Boskamp. Second from left, sitting, Joop van Daele, the later matchwinner of the World Cup match

Jansen would play for Feyenoord 1 for 15 years and he would form the core of the new Feyenoord, with Ove Kindvall from Sweden, Ruud Geels and Rinus Israel. When Willem van Hanegem is signed a year later, the perfect midfield couple is born. Jansen would become the first Feyenoord full pro and would develop what he called “blind communication” with Van Hanegem. The two acted as twins and even bought homes practically next ot each other in my home town of HI Ambacht.

Feyenoord and the players realised that now, the game was about the results. And about winning points so the players would make more. Rinus Israel became Jansen’s mentor. “Could I ask for a better one?” With De Kromme, Jansen developed this telepathic bond. Willem van Hanegem: “He was so good. Wim could play anywhere on the pitch. He couldn’t be a goalie, though… too small. But Wim would always pass the ball with intelligence, with purpose. In today’s game, you’d probably compare him to Paul Scholes, or Jorginho or Kimmel. Smart, effective… always passing and moving.”

In the 60s, Georg Kessler selects him for the Dutch NT where he plays next to Cruyff and Willy van der Kuylen. Kessler: “Wim Jansen should be the role model for today’s youths. Not Cruyff!” The 20 year old midfielder is not too comfortable in the Dutch midfield, as he is surrounded by Ajax players, such as Bennie Muller, Henk Groot, Piet Keizer and Johan Cruyff. When Oranje fails to qualify for the Euros in 1968, Jansen loses his spot. The 1970 World Cup and the 1972 Euros are also missed by the Dutch and Jansen would only play two internationals in those early 70s. The coach – Fadrhonc – usually picks a midfield with Neeskens, Van Hanegem, Gerrie Muhren or Theo de Jong.

Jansen is not happy but will focus his efforts on his club. In 1970 he wins the European Cup and the World Cup and Willem van Hanegem and Wim Jansen (big Wim and Wimpie) conquer the world.

Against his friend Johan, when Barca met Feyenoord

Ernst Happel, the Austrian former star and current Feyenoord coach, becomes his mentor in tactics. Jansen realises that the pass and move game is the key game. “Taking on players and dribbling is nice but it does result in loss of possession. The ball is always faster than the player, so by passing and moving you can outsmart any opponent.” Happel calls Jansen the accelerator in the team. Where Van Hanegem sometimes slows the game down (on purpose) or waits for the perfect timing for a cross, Jansen is a one-touch player who moves the play relentlessly.

Wim Jansen is the King of Playing Simple. As JC once said: football is a simple game, but to play simple is the hardest thing there is. He is also the King of Silence. He loves anonymity, he loathes publicity. Famously, Johan Derksen once traveled the world with him, visiting famous youth academies and Jansen would go on and on about football, share investing and The Beatles (his three passions) but when Johan needed to interview him formally, Jansen would not be able to answer more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’. A very private man.

When Feyenoord plays their semi finals against AC Milan in 1970, Jansen completely nullifies star player Gianni Rivera and scores a Ziyech type goal. Feyenoord would go on to beat Celtic for the trophy and Jansen’s name is internationally settled. In 1974 he’d win the UEFA Cup with Feyenoord, beating Spurs.

When Oranje travels to the World Cup 1974, coach (supervisor) Rinus Michels is plagued by injuries. When Drost, Israel, Laseroms, Mansveld and Hulshoff all fall away for the CB role, Michels (Cruyff?) picks Arie Haan. And this is the impetus needed for Jansen, as he is picked as the third midfielder, next to Van Hanegem and Neeskens (Gerrie Muhren is also injured). “I am grateful to be part of this and if I can make minutes, it would be awesome.” Well, Wim
Jansen played every minute and was one of the outstanding players – with Van Hanegem, Cruyff, Rensenbrink and Rep – of this magical Oranje team.

In that fatal WC 74 finals…

Through his games with the NT, Jansen struck a deep friendship with Cruyff. The late master of the game said repeatedly in interviews that Jansen was the only player he knew that shared his football insights and ideas about football tactics. Even Willem van Hanegem famously said that when JC and Wimpie start debating football, he’d go to the bar for another glass of wine, as it became hocus pocus for him!

Four years later, Jansen is also part of the squad managed by Ernst Happel winning silver again (losing gold…?) in Argentina.

Back in Holland, Feyenoord’s management is making (financial) mistake after mistake and the one richest club on the planet (!) is fading. When Jansen gets into conflict with the board and coach Jezek, Jansen decides to move away.

When his buddy Cruyff moves to Washington Diplomats, Wim Jansen decides to follow him.

The news drops like a bomb. “Shocking Farewell” is the headline of the AD newspaper. “I am maybe a bit quiet, but I have an opinion and I’m headstrong. I can’t stand for what happened. I am gone and I don’t think I’ll ever come back here.” When asked about the media mayhem that ensued, he said: “Don’t worry, in 2 weeks time, I’ll be forgotten.”

He wouldn’t last more than one season. “Life in America is wonderful, but the football here…they simply don’t get it.”

Juan Lozano, Johan Cruyff, Wim Jansen

So now what? Well, Johan Cruyff has the answer. He is now technical coordinator at Ajax and he advises the club to sign Jansen. Ajax has a number of great young talents – as per usual – but defensively, it’s like Swiss Cheese. Ajax is 8th in the table with a tremendous number of goals conceded.

Jansen made his debut for Ajax in December 1980. In De Kuip. Against Feyenoord. And the most famous ice-ball ever takes the headlines as an angry Feyenoord supporter throws the iceball towards the players when they start their warming up. The ice-ball hits Jansen in the eye and damages his cornea. He would try to play, for 15 minutes but was subbed when he wasn’t able to see what was happening too well. To put insult to injury, his future son-in-law Stanley Brard decided to take him out with a fierce tackle as well and that was it. Wimpie went from Mr Feyenoord to “dog-dick” (hondelul) in a heartbeat.

Jansen here right after being hit by the ice-ball

But Jansen is no push over. He would stay another season and mentor youngsters like Frank Rijkaard, Vanenburg, Kieft and Olsen. In that second season, the maestro himself puts his boots on again too and with Soren Lerby in midfield, Cruyff as false 9 and Jansen managing it from the back with Rijkaard, Ajax and Wim Jansen won the title.

Wimpie tried it for 15 minutes in his debut vs Feyenoord

He starts to think about life after his active career and he starts to collect information. Intelligence. He’s basically a collector. He collects shares, stamps and now he started collecting information about training practices, about nutrition, the working of the mind, and more. His database and archives become famous and more and more coaches and reporters find the way to his home to dive in Jansen’s footballing brain. When Feyenoord contacts him to come and coach the youth, the love for his club is re-kindled and Jansen would start a whole new phase in his career.

More in part 2…

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Ricky Testa: the one that got away….

In the early 1980s, Utrecht was a hotbed for football talent. The likes of Vanenburg, Van Loen, Godee and Marco van Basten all hailed from the same area, where they played numerous games with and against each other on amateur level, before the big clubs came to swoop them up.

In Amsterdam, talents like Rijkaard, Van ’t Schip, Kieft, Bosman and Gullit made name, while Rotterdam followed with the likes of Mario Been, Danny Blind, Rene Eijer and Rene van der Gijp.

Most if not all of them reached the top. Playmaker John van Loen had to endure a growth spurt and was converted into a striker. Playmaker Edwin Godee did play for Ajax and several rep teams but lacked the quality to reach the senior Oranje team.

One player got away, as they say. Ricky Testa La Muta, best buds with Marco van Basten, made different choices. And disappeared in obscurity. This is his story.

Ricky now

Ricky now, coaching Elinkwijk

Testa la Muta is considered a phenomenon in Utrecht. In the 1990s, the striker was the main man in the top amateur team Holland, of Utrecht. Coached by none other than Willem van Hanegem, the amateur team won the Dutch amateur title twice in a row, with attractive football. While elsewhere in The Netherlands, his friend Marco van Basten was feverishly working on regaining fitness from a long time lingering ankle issue. Marco was not even 30 years old and faced having to go into retirement. After years of suffering and pain, he decided to call it a day. San Marco would relocate from Milan into the anonymity of Monte Carlo and struggled through a dark period of his life. His friend Ricky was by his side whenever Marco needed him. The flamboyant striker with Italian roots never made it to the big stage, to the surprise of many football experts.

Their lives seemed to run along a synchrone thread. Van Basten became the best in the world, Testa La Muta disappeared from the spotlights. The striker with Italian roots: “We played in the A junior team of Elinkwijk. What a fantastic team we had. Edwin Godee was our captain. Ajax scouts came and picked Marco and Edwin. They overlooked me. I was struggling with a knee injury, an injury which back then took a year to deal with. Today’s it’s different. But, Ajax wanted the best and fittest, and I was not part of that group. I would have played for FC Utrecht, but they did not have a youth academy, so that didn’t work. Feyenoord was an option but it was too far away for me to consider. And guess what, a couple of years ago I met Aad de Mos. I politely introduced myself and he looked at me with a question in his eyes. He told me that Ajax was ready to sign me as well. They were following me. So I wondered what happened? Why didn’t they? And by Golly, De Mos simply couldn’t remember why it never happened… Such is life.”


In the Elinkwijk youth, Marco is standing next to the goalie, Ricky sits front row far right

Testa La Muta remembers it all well and was actually counting on a logical move to Amsterdam. “We had such amazing players. I played for a small amateur club when I was younger. We won everything. Until we faced Sterrenwijk. A certain Gerald Vanenburg was their key player. We lost 6-1. Vanenburg scored all six goals, I scored for our team, hahahaha. I remember my dad telling everyone: I thought my son was a good player with promise, but that little Vanenburg… that is a boy wonder!”

I then made a move to Elinkwijk. Gerald played there as well that season, as did Edwin Godee. They were so incredibly good, in midfield. I was the striker and life was relatively easy for me there. We were all part of the Utrecht youth plan. They dd not have a youth academy at the local FC, but this youth plan made sure they kept track of talents. It didn’t work though. The best talents were swooped up by other clubs before FC Utrecht could offer them a deal.”

“Our main competitor in the city was UVV. Marco was their striker and John van Loen was the playmaker, behind Marco. John had a growth spurt later in his youth and had difficulties maintaining his quality. He did become a very good striker of course. The matches between Elinkwijk – UVV were like Feyenoord-Ajax. They really mattered. Half the city thought Marco was the best, the other half thought Vanenburg was the best. By then, we all played rep football for Oranje and we knew each other well.”

vaantje 2

Gerald “Vaantje” Vanenburg: magician

The youngster would all develop a strong bond. But Ricky and Marco became really close. “We were all a bit macho in these days. It was cool to hang out with the best. We were good, I tell you, but Gerald Vanenburg was extra ordinary. When he was 8 years old, you could already see that. His touch, his skills, his passing, vision, his dribbles… Unbelievable. He was the Maradona of Holland, really. We all thought Gerald would be the world class super star, and with Marco you felt, he’ll make it to the Eredivisie.”

Van Basten himself thought differently. “That is the weird thing. Marco always said he would be the best of the world. And he wasn’t kidding! He had so much confidence. He also told me numerous times he would become rich. Hell, he even had a statement written on his wall in his bedroom: “I am the Best!”. Funny, coz I thought I was the best, actually, hahahaha.”

Ricky keeps on talking: “We were competitive and the same in many ways. We were both very good ping pong players too, we both played competition. We also both did diving from the high tower, you know? Saltos and that sort of thing. The difference was with school though. Marco was good at learning and his parents really motivated him to do well. I was different. I was a street urchin. But once Marco was on the streets, he was a little prick too, hahaha.”

Marco was introduced to Italy by his own parents, as the Van Bastens would go to Italy for holidays every year. But at the Testa La Muta family, his passion for Italy was further developed. “Marco came from a typical Dutch background. 6 pm dinner was served. At our house, dinner was all the time. Always people around, food aplenty, Marco loved hanging out with us.”

Ricky’s dad was one of the first “guest workers” in Holland. From Sicily. He worked in a factory in Holland and met Ricky’s would be mum there.

In the year that Van Basten, Vanenburg and Godee went to Ajax, a friend of Ricky’s dad decided to help Ricky with his career. The infamous football agent Apollonius Konijnenburg was at a friendly between Helmond Sport- Genoa. Ricky’s family friend was at the game, with Ricky, Marco, Gerald and Godee. That made an impression on Konijnenburg, who obviously knew the Ajax talents.


Edwin Godee

And as Ricky was part Italian, it meant that he could play in Italy as an Italian. In those days, Italian clubs could only play two non-Italian players. This is what they all thought…

Konijnenburg had some players in Italy already. Jan Peters at Genoa, Michel van de Korput at Torino… He told Ricky “I’ll get you a practice game or two.” Konijnenburg was quite the charismatic wheeler and dealer. Swagger, spoke Italian. Ricky: “He was a fun guy, within 2 weeks I was in Italy. He arranged games at Genoa and Napoli. I was 17 years old and still a kid. Konijnenburg picked me up in his flash Mercedes and we drove to the airport. And I realised: I’m going to Italy with an old guy I don’t even know, hahaha. But he was a fun guy at least.”

“Don’t forget, it’s 1982. Italy just won the World Cup and spirits were high. They put me up in a 5 star hotel on the coast. I was there with Trevor Francis, who lived their as well. He played for Torino. Anyway, I was still suffering a bit from a knee operation I had had… But I played some friendlies and I did pretty good. The coach said: yep, I want him. So they offered me a so-called B contract. When I was back in Holland, in Utrecht, I got cold feet. I had to live in some camp for youth players. I was going out in Utrecht that weekend with my mates, the girls started to notice me and all that and I decided not to go. Also, I ended up not being an Italian for the foreigners rule. I had to be there and play for two seasons before they would see me as an Italian. That was it. I didn’t sign.”


Ricky playing for Pro Patria

“I played for Elinkwijk one season and was signed by FC Utrecht, and played in their C-team. At the same time, my girlfriend got pregnant… It all happened at the same time. I also worked part time in Amsterdam and it all became too much. I was losing interest in football, the fun disappeared and I never broke into the first team of FC Utrecht. I left to play for Volendam, also not a a success and returned to the amateurs of Elinkwijk.”

When Marco van Basten was writing history with Ajax and the Dutch NT, Ricky was in a football hole. He thought his dream was done. Until Konijnenburg called, out of the blue. If he was still interested in playing in Italy. This would be for a club in the Serie C. Pro Patria. He was 22 years old and he realised this would be his last chance. The deal was quite good. “It was a big step, I was a dad and all that, but the club was keen: they got me a home, a car and 50k annual salary. Not bad for those times. The coach wanted me also because of my friendship with Marco and Gerald Vanenburg. The coach invited me to come to this little chateau on the Lake Maggiore, it was paradise. I thought: yep, I’m doing it. Next thing I know, I’m in a trainings camp for four weeks. Four weeks! I thought I went crazy, hahaha.”

Konijnenburg was also instrumental in bringing Gullit and Van Basten to Italy. AC Milan of course. Testa La Muta: “I didn’t even know where Pro Patria played hahaha, but I learned it was close to Milan. And I thought, wow… I need to let Marco know!”


Pro Patria playing a friendly pre-season game vs AC Milan: Marco far right, Ricky next to him

Ricky got a message through to Van Basten and he appeared to live close to him. “When I told him my apartment wasn’t finished, he immediately said: come and live with us! I have a huge home! So I lived with my girlfriend and our little one with Marco and Liesbeth for a spell. Man, did we laugh a lot, we didn’t know what was happening. Marco was a millionaire in one hit, in this Hollywood home. He drove a Lancia Turbo…so here we were, two street kids from Utrecht. Marco also had his Dutch car still, so he threw me the keys to the Lancia. Good times… I’d take the Lancia to the club and found that the owner of Pro Patria drove the same car, haha. Marco and Ruud would come look me up at Pro Patria and I’d hang with them at Milanello. They were like Gods these two. And at one point, Ruud’s mate Rene van der Gijp came to visit as well. We all had lunch at Milanello. All the Italian players drank water, but Ruud and Marco were allowed to drink Coca Cola. Rene asked me where I played: I said Pro Patria. And he said: What is that? The local music band?… Everyone in stitches of course…”

gijp gullit young

Van der Gijp and Gullit: buddies…

“But it was good. We won games and we lost. When we won, I was the hero. I was quite popular and ate for free whenever we did well, but boy, if we lost… if we lost two in a row, people would throw tomatoes at us, or rocks even!”

Playing in the Serie C was not what Ricky imagined. “Marco got injured and spent a year back in Holland. I was playing in Serie C and even though these guys were all full pro and Pro Patria used to be a Serie A club, the level was terrible. It was rough and violent. They kicked at everything that moved. Not my cup of tea. I played there one season and was able to move to clubs in the Serie A or B but I still had one year to go in the Serie C for my football status as an Italian. I couldn’t do it.”

Ricky does not look back in anger. “I was there with my girl and my little child, it was not the right life for us. If I had been alone, maybe… But the stress when they played at home. They all had white faces and were really stressed if they lost at home. The whole town would be in mourning. So they had pills and doping and injections and shit in the dressing room, the coach didn’t sleep, the chairman was sweating like a pig, it was not healthy.”


Ricky and Marco off the pitch

Marco van Basten had the right personality to survive that jungle. “If I would have stayed another season, I might have made it to a good big club as well. Why not. Wim Kieft scored one goal in his Pisa season and got a transfer to Torino. I know I was good enough, but it simply didn’t work out. And I’m not sorry about my decisions. I played at the amateurs in The Netherlands until I was 33 years old. I won everything you can win, at amateur level.  I am now coaching in Holland at Elinkwijk and I can walk the streets and go to a cafe. Marco will always have those spotlights on him and he’s cool with that. I prefer it this way. He hasn’t changed though. He doesn’t like the attention but he can live with it. He’s still as pigheaded as ever, hahaha, always wants to debate everything and he knows exactly what he wants and doesn’t want… With Marco, there is no middle of the road…”

Marco van Basten: “We were close mates when we played together. Competitive, but mates. We had Cruyff as our idol, and Ricky had this amazing poster in his room of Johan. I wanted it, so I would always try and use that as the prize in any game we played. Table tennis, cards, football, hahaha. I always said I was the best, but he did too! We both believed it. When we both ended up in Italy, we became close again. When I left Utrecht for Ajax, we didn’t have much time together, but Liesbeth and I had this big mansion in Italy and Ricky was basically our permanent house guest. We’d eat together and we’d watch each other games. He was a very good player, but forced to make his way to the top via lower levels. Sad, it didn’t happen, that he couldn’t execute what his brain saw…”

Marco is now Chief Innovation Officer at FIFA.

Ricky is head coach at his youth amateur club Elinkwijk

Edwin Godee has gone into business

Gerald Vanenburg was football coach but is currently manager of his talented daughter (tennis)

John van Loen is assistant coach at FC Utrecht

Source: This article was taken from the VI Special Edition “Italy” which was co-edited by Marco van Basten. Expect more cool Italy-related stories (Sneijder, Ruud Krol, San Marco, Stefan de Vrij)

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Clarence Seedorf: Top Coach in the Making

I will never forget the sight. He was 17 years old, had just won the CL with Ajax and in the post match interview in the dressing room, Clarence sat next to Rijkaard. By then, Rijkaard was a veteran. His last game of professional football just behind him. And Clarence put his hand on Rijkaard’s knee and said to the interviewer: “Frank played a really mature game tonight…”

Or something or other…

And I knew then and there: Seedorf is a legend in the making. His talent was already widely covered in different tv specials and sports programs. His coach Louis van Gaal already felt he was too difficult to coach and his team mates called Seedorf a “wise old soul”.

This kid was special.

And he would remain special. Winning a series of CL trophies, playing for tremendous clubs and winning praise and respect from top analysts, coaches and players.

In his last days as a pro player – with Botafoga in Brazil – he still dazzled the world regularly with goals, assists and velvety touches.

But when Lady B called, Clarence picked up the phone.

Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter Barbara is AC Milan’s marketing director. Officially, that is. In real life, she is the power behind the throne. Or on the throne.

LAdy B and CS

Clarence and Lady B

Allegri has had an impressive run with AC Milan and is probably a very good coach. But AC Milan needs something more than that. AC Milan needs a top coach, a super star coach. A man with charisma, with bravado and magic in his aura.

Like Pep Guardiola at Bayern, or Mourinho at Chelsea. AC Milan wants a rock star. And with Clarence, it got just that.

AC Milan wants to go back to being the best in the world. It’s not longer Galliani who will steer the ship. He might still drive his Audi Q7 to Milanello but he’s not driving the club anymore. Formally, the vice chairman is still the top man, but in real life he’s not.

The 29 year old Barbara is in charge of the big clean up in Milan. She called Clarence for the job and Clarence clearly picked up the phone.

They call her Lady B. The former philosophy student and business woman. In 2011 she suddenly was projected into the Management Board of AC and kept her cool in the background. Reporter Donati: “This is clearly a revolution. Barbara and Clarence are modelling a new AC Milan together. ”

AC Milan has dropped to the mid range of the Serie A standings and after losing 4-3 against Sassuolo this weekend, Barbara scoffed “this can’t go on like this”. The blonde beauty, girlfriend of star player Pato by the way, sacked Allegri (Galliani’s man) and called to Brazil.

The club wants to go Dutch. Not unlike Barca in the past and Bayern Munich, in a way. Seedorf is inexperienced, but Sacchi and Capello were inexperienced coaches too, when they started their careers in the 1980s. The Berlusconi’s see Seedorf as a mix of both icons. Seedorf will be a modern, ambitious and gutsy coach, people believe. Real coach Ancelotti about Seedorf’s signing: “AC Milan has always made brave decisions.”

Not everyone agrees though. Altafini calls Seedorf “a big risk. George Weah thinks it’s a perfect plan and Ruud Gullit is looking forward to Clarence in the dug out. The current interim manager Mauro Tassotti, former team mate of Van Basten and Gullit: “Clarence is a big personality. He was a top player but there are no guarantees. The future will show whether Clarence will be a top coach. I will support him all the way, but he obviously knows his way around the club like no other.”

Berlusconi was clear in his vision: “We want to go the Bayern Munich way, with a sniff of Ajax for good measure. Develop your own talents, combined with a couple of world class stars.”

They also want some ex players on key positions. Jaap Stam is the ideal assistant for Seeforf while Hernan Crespo will also assist. The coach of the talents, Filippo Inzaghi is also an option for a bigger role inthe dug out. Like with Ajax and Feyenoord, a good group of ex players in their 30s and 40s.

AC Milan is waiting for new glory. And it will be led by a 37 year old Dutchman, an angry (and dirty) old man and a young blond woman.

Ajax director Edwin van de Sar is not surprised of his moves. “Clarence thinks big. He was always interested in so many things. He owns a club, he owns businesses, he analyses for English tv, he does charity work… He is quite something. I remember him joining the squad at Ajax. He was 15 years old. Legs like trees and a six pack of steel. I was a thin, long worm compared to him. But he was always a coach. He was always leading in talks with the club or the coach, also about tactics. It is quite something for him to get this opportunity.”

Frank de Boer is highly intrigued. “It’s quite a move. AC Milan is taking a risk and so is Clarence. But it fits him. There is hardly time for him to grt adjusted or to think about some tactical plan or to work on a playing style. He needs to deliver immediately. But he is so experienced and he always was coaching, even as a player. He has all the qualities to make it.”

cs huilt

Clarence in tears at his farewell

Urby Emanuelson is looking forward to the coach Seedorf: “I played with him of course and he was important for the team as an extension of the coach. He was always motivating you, coaching you. So I’m not surprised with this step. He helped me a lot here in the beginning and he’s a fabulous guy. I am looking forward to working with him.” Emanuelson will extend his deal with AC Milan, by the way, as he has had meetings with Lady B already about this.

Aad de Mos, former Ajax coach: “Whether you start at Xerxes in Rotterdam or AC Milan, the first four games will determine his career for a bit. If he loses the first four games, he’ll get criticism. It’s as simple as that. I am not sure if he is a good coach. Some players have it from day 1. Frank de Boer, Pep Guardiola, Louis van Gaal. They have the ability to communicate with players, they are intelligent and are good observers. Clarence is like that too.”

Seedorf is not totally inexperienced, as he used his iPad and the coach whistle at Botafoga regularly. He would show his team mates specific situations and would work through them on the training pitch.

He was in tears at the press conference when he announced his exit. The press conference was televised live in Brazil and with a chopper flight to the club he said his farewells to coaches and players. The Dutch Maestro as they called him there leaves quite a legacy in Brazil.  And not just as a player. But also as a human being, with ” his culture, politeness, compassion and professionalism”.

Willem van Hanegem coached Seedorf at the EC 2004. “I really wish him all the best. And I am keen to see how he’ll do. He has worked with so many great coaches throughout his career, it will be great to see how he will work. People in Holland sometimes ridicule him but no Dutch player can match his palmares. I worked with him and thoroughly enjoyed our discussions about football. He is a nice guy and I hope he’ll get Milan back to playing football.”

Willem and Clarence worked together in Oranje. It was never a happy or successful marriage. As a player that is. Who knows, we might already dream of Seedorf as National Team Coach. Why not…?

Clarence New Boss. Really not the same as the Old Boss….

Lady B 1

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Dutch clubs in Europe

And it only takes a week for two of our young, cool clubs to be relieved of their European dreams. No CL for PSV, no EL for Feyenoord (or Vitesse, or Utrecht).

What a drama.  Feyenoord started well against the Russians in a steaming De Kuip but missing a penalty is never a good thing to do. Too many individual mistakes. Not enough forward thrust. Not enough killer instinct. End of story.

Ronald Koeman: “We lost against ourselves, really. We did everything right in the first half. We pressured forward, we scored and created 5 opportunities. But they came back due to personal mistakes and that second goal took the confidence out of the team. This was very unnecessary.” Apart from losing the game, Feyenoord also lost Clasie with a hamstring injury.

Feyenoord not good enough. Utrecht and Vitesse: not good enough. AZ might have a somewhat friendlier draw than Feyenoord but still…probably…not…good enough.

So, we need to make do with Ajax. In the CL. An Ajax WITHOUT Eriksen and most likely Alderweireld, who is linked to Atletico Madrid and Liverpool. Ajax is checking if Van Ginkel is available for a loan deal, what with Willian coming in, but for now, Chelsea said no.

Last season, they were facing the champions of England, Spain and Germany. “It can’t get that bad this year,” everyone said. So now they get Barca, Milan and Celtic. And sure, it’s not that bad. I do believe 6 points are a must against Celtic and maybe they can grab two against Milan. Who knows how they’ll finish up. They will at least bag the millions tv-money all by themselves now PSV is out.

cocu ac milan

PSV might not have gotten the victory (and the CL ticket), as was to be expected, really. But PSV definitely received and deservedly so, the compliments for trying hard.

The young team ( 23 years on average WITH Park and Schaars, 20 years without these two oldies) played with gusto, flair and panache in the San Siro. With the first chance even for Tim Matavz.

But it didn’t take long for Kevin Boateng to find space in the centre, with the former Portsmouth forward drifting between Wijnaldum and Rekik and pulling the trigger early. The PSV goalie Zoet was probably expected to block that but he simply wasn’t quick enough.

PSV kept on playing and Milan allowed PSV the ball. And slowly PSV gained some confidence, knowing that a 2-2 or a win would be enough. And there is enough football in PSV to go for a goal or two. Maher understood this in the 20st minute, taking a ball on the half volley and forcing a stop from Abbiati.

In the 31st minute, great chance for Milan, with a low pulled back cross from the left and an El Shaarawy hit on the bar.
The start of the second half was great for PSV with a 100% chance for Wijnaldum. Instead of being smart about it, the former Feyenoord man went for power and Abbiati blocked it nicely.

but it was Balotelli who found he net in the early stages of the 2nd half.

And it has to be said…. AC Milan looked more lethal, more mature and superior, but they did allow PSV the ball a lot and the youngsters from Eindhoven tried to take the game to them. The final pass or the final cross failed them though. And it has to be said, some players failed to step up.

Specifically Adam Maher and Memphis Depay, in my book, should have brought more. Maher had some great moments, but he needs to be more dominating, in my book. He does drift in and out. Depay however seems to light at this level. Physically and in terms of decision making. He is a great talent, for sure. But his time has not come yet. Park and Matavz played decent. So did Wijnaldum. Schaars worked his arse off but simply does not have the class of a Sneijder or Clasie. It’s a bit too predictable.

The most impressive players for me where – despite the goals conceded – Rekik, Bruma, Willems. Fearless. Focused. And sure, playing those top forwards (Boateng. Balotelli, El Shaarawy) you do make mistakes and you will give chances away. But I was impressed with these guys.

Jeroen Zoet? I am not convinced. Talented for sure. But not the man to win games for you (yet). A bit too…..sweet? (Zoet is Dutch for sweet, hahaha). I can’t see how Tyton is not better at the moment.


Nigel de Jong was nice to his fellow countryman. The best Dutch player on the pitch: “I really need to compliment PSV. They play with heart and soul. And they’re talented. But it’s too early for them. If they can keep the lads together for a bit, their time will come.” Asked about his future in Oranje, he said: “Sure! I’d love to wear the jersey again. But for now, after this long injury, I need to focus on my club. If I do well for Milan, the rest will probably follow.”

Stijn Schaars: “We are too light for this. Milan showed us that. We just didn’t have enough. With 1-0 down, there was nothing really troubling us, as we had to score anyway. We had the 1-1 opportunity and we missed. The game would have been different as a result.  They got one 10 minutes later, and score. Almost from the same spot. That is the story, I guess.

This game and this opponent came to early for PSV. Sadly or maybe not sadly, the can now concentrate on the domestic league.

And in Amsterdam they secretly cheer, as all the CL tv income will now go to Ajax….

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Nigel de Jong not written off yet….

Nigel de Jong showed himself again, last week against PSV. He copped a knock on his toe in the first 5 minutes and that injury will most likely stop him from playing Milan’s opening game in the Serie A this weekend and might even keep him grounded for the second leg vs PSV.

The stocky midfielder has been criticised a lot on our blog and in the Dutch media, but in Germany, England and now in Italy there is tremendous respect for the former Ajax player. And I think that he deserves it. I personally have a lot of respect and admiration for De Jong. Partly, because he was launched as a creative midfielder, who was transformed into a disciplined, hardworking destroyer.

In Oranje, I rather saw Van der Vaart on De Jong’s position. Obviously, more football with Raf. And we already had Mark van Bommel. But I had a lot of admiration for De Jong’s career and I felt that the tremendous criticism he copped over the Xabi Alonso kick and the Ben Arfa leg injury were exaggerated.

I repeat: the kick in the face of Demy de Zeeuw was worse (for the victim) than the Xabi kick but that was never an item as it didn’t happen versus a Spaniard. De Jong clearly had eye for the ball and did not hit Alonso on purpose. Why on Earth would he do that (Wasn’t it in the first 2o mins of the game?). The Ben Arfa situation wasn’t even a foul. Just an unlucky situation. Not nice for Ben Arfa, but Robin van Persie had a similar situation, from a friendly against Italy. Are we now repeating constantly that the Italian defender was a criminal? No, it was an unlucky situation.

With Mark van Bommel retired and with our midfielders in a shaky position ( Fer, Van Ginkel, Strootman, Clasie…either not in great form or just moved to another club…always a risk), it is conceivable that LVG will want to try out De Jong once more.


Louis inspired Nigel….


Because against Andorra and Hungary, it’s all good to play with a midfield with Maher, De Guzman and Van Ginkel but against Brazil, Germany or Portugal, you might want to use De Jong as destroyer… Right?

Lets sing the praise of this un-Dutch midfielder….

Nigel De Jong said goodbye to Manchester on the final day of the summer transfer window, much to the regret of many City fans. De Jong was a firm favourite during his three-and-a-half year stint at the club and he will always be respected by the City supporters for the total commitment he showed in a blue shirt.

The disappointment over his sale was palpable but his new adventure at AC Milan has begun. Here, we look back over his life and assess his impact on the footballing world.

De Jong was raised in Amsterdam-West, an area of Holland home to many immigrant families, particularly those like the De Jong family who are of Surinamese descent. Nigel’s father, Jerry, was a player at PSV Eindhoven, representing Holland on three occasions, however, he had little involvement in the De Jong household where young Nigel was considered the man of the house. With his father absent from home, and his mother suffering from a kidney complaint that frequently saw her in hospital, he assumed responsibility for his four other siblings, an experience he feels made him the man he is today.

“I had to grow up quickly. My childhood wasn’t easy. We didn’t have a lot and we had to fight for everything we got. There was no time to play around and not a lot of spare cash. When you grow up in that kind of area you can go one of two ways, and one is on the streets. I don’t want to make it too dramatic but there were other kids from my neighbourhood who got into a bad way of life. I’ve seen friends die from being on the streets.”

De Jong started his career as a forward; a number 10 seeking to influence the game high up the pitch. In 2003, he went to Highbury as an 18 year old with Ajax in a Champions League match, scoring his first senior goal with a brilliant lob into the top corner. The difference between the young player at Ajax and the De Jong operating in today’s game is staggering. It was a move masterminded by Huub Stevens, his coach at Hamburg, who, after signing De Jong in January 2006 for a fee of less than £1 million, moved him to the role we now associate him with.

“I was always a striker, or a No10. Even in my last year at Ajax I was on the right side of attack. But then I moved to Germany and the Hamburg coach, Huub Stevens, said: ‘Listen, this might be a surprise but I’m going to turn you into a defensive midfielder so trust me.’

“It was a shock because I’d always played in a more glamorous position but I’d always admired that kind of player. I looked at it like this: Zinedine Zidane couldn’t have done his job without Claude Makélélé. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke couldn’t have scored those goals without Roy Keane. Fernando Redondo, Patrick Vieira, Fernando Hierro; a team cannot operate without these players. It’s about discipline and doing a job for the team. So let the other players fight it out to be the main man. My job is to defend then give the ball to the players who have the creativity.”

nigel karate trap

Bruce Lee? Jackie Chan? No. Louis van Gaal….


It was a positional shift that paid off handsomely as De Jong gradually forged a reputation as one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe, with his nickname Rasenmäher (the Lawnmower) given as a reference to his style of play that mows down all before him.

It was January 2009, with City struggling for form under the guidance of Mark Hughes, that the club payed £18 million for a player with only 6 months left on his contract. Such was the importance of the acquisition, City paid over-the-odds to ensure he wasn’t snapped up by the other big clubs who were circling. He joined a side far from the finished article, with huge disparity between home and away form meaning City were struggling in the league. They had also been knocked out of both cup competitions by lower league sides, on penalties to Brighton in the League Cup, and smashed 3-0 at home by Nottingham Forest. Expectations were high but performances were far from impressive.

He made his debut in a home win against Newcastle but City’s patchy form continued soon after, picking up only 4 points from the remaining 9 away matches. For a player used to success with Ajax and Hamburg it was probably a shock to the system, having habitually finished in the top 3 at his previous clubs. But De Jong wanted to be part of the long-term future of the club.

“The results have been mixed, especially the difference between the home form and the away form. We need to improve on that but it’s a beautiful club and it’s been good for me to see the club in a, quotes, ‘bad season’ and experience the downside, knowing there are successful years to come. The success was never going to come straightaway. I knew that from the start. But I met the chairman [Khaldoon Al Mubarak] and he told me his plans.

“He told me about the expectations of the club and the way some people expected them to take the club to the top in the first six months. It doesn’t work like that, of course. It takes time. Everyone seems to think the new owners are pumping in all this money without using their minds but I talked to the board and Khaldoon and they are trying to build something with a mind behind it. You just have to have patience and work your bollocks off to get it right.”

No one could deny that De Jong was true to his word.

Living in Bowden, the palatial Cheshire suburb home to many of Manchester’s footballers, he quickly settled in a city he felt was overwhelmingly blue.

“There are so many more Blues than Reds. If I take a cab, the driver is a City fan. If I go to the shopping centre, all I see are City shirts. I was astonished when I first arrived because everyone was a Blue and I was asking everyone: ‘How does that work? Manchester United are the biggest club in the world, aren’t they?’

“People would explain to me: ‘That’s just a global thing, the real workers’ club is Manchester City.’ And it’s true, it’s a working club, and the people in Manchester can relate to this club because they are working people. They are very proud of it. That’s why Manchester City is so big locally – not worldwide maybe, but definitely locally.”

The following season, things started in a similar fashion for City, with Mark Hughes’ sacking coming immediately after the 4-3 home win over Sunderland with City sixth in the table. “A return of two wins in 11 Premier League games is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed and set,” read the City statement and few can argue it was the right decision. Roberto Mancini was quickly appointed and De Jong remained a key player in the side under the Italian as City finished fifth in the table. The improvement in the team was obvious, with City looking far more professional and well-organised than under Hughes. They lost only four games that season and had a chance to qualify for the Champions League. However, Tottenham’s victory at The Etihad (or the City of Manchester Stadium was it was then called) courtesy of a Peter Crouch goal meant it was Spurs, not City, who landed a place in the biggest knock-out competition on the planet. City were improving all the time and De Jong was a vital component.

That summer, De Jong travelled with the Dutch national side to the World Cup in South Africa where he was a key member of the team which went all the way to the final. Playing with two holding midfielders, De Jong and Mark van Bommel, who were vital to Holland’s progress, they played a more defensive style than we had come to associate with the Dutch but results were good. In the final, which they lost 1-0 after extra time to Spain, De Jong was lucky not to be sent off after a terrible challenge on Xabi Alonso in which he planted his studs into the Real Madrid player’s chest. It was an incident which saw his reputation as a dirty player grow; an underserved reputation in the eyes of City fans who knew him as a fair but firm tackler. Upon arrival back in Manchester, De Jong was unrepentant about the challenge.

“I don’t regret anything. I never intended to hurt him. And after such a great World Cup I came back in the dressing room of Manchester City as a different player.

“I had just played in the final of the World Cup. It gives you a different status. The lads at City said they were impressed with the Dutch team’s performances out there in South Africa. That was really nice.’’

nigel sush

Nigel will silence the criticasters…


With De Jong’s status in world football on the rise, it was clear he was totally focused on the job of making City a force to be reckoned with. Going in to the 2010/2011 season, De Jong was feeling good.

“What makes it really hard for us, is that every team we play, sees us as the big favourite for the title. We are now a hot item in England only because our club have spent such a lot of money on new players. I am not saying they hate us in every stadium, but I do feel there is a tremendous amount of jealousy.

“I really think we must compete with Chelsea and Manchester United this season. Two years ago a new owner arrived here. Last year we laid the foundation, this year we have to fire from all cylinders. We must go and win trophies.

“We can’t expect it to be a smooth ride. United and Chelsea are established teams. Their players know exactly what it takes to win the league.’’

That summer, as Mancini set about building a team representative of his values, City had spent big, with David Silva, Jerome Boateng, Alexsander Kolarov, Mario Balotelli and James Milner all coming in. Yaya Toure also arrived for a fee of £24 million which saw talk of De Jong’s position being under threat begin to emanate.

“I see Yaya more as a central midfield player than a defensive midfield player. He has an attacking mind. I think together we can form a great partnership in midfield. It will be like a strong block. Besides, I have always been a regular player in the first team and I expect that will stay like that. Vincent Kompany and I are the only two players who have been with this club before the sheik arrived. So I think I am a player with a lot of experience at the club.’’

His place was safe. That season De Jong played 41 times for City and was one of the best performers in a side that qualified for the Champions League for the first time. It was also in May of that season that he finally tasted success in a blue shirt after playing a big role in the club’s FA Cup victory, their first trophy in 35 years. It was what De Jong had come to Manchester for – to help City win silverware and put them back on the footballing map. It was that first success that he claimed was the catalyst for what was to come.

“The FA Cup success gave us the taste for winning things. Manchester City hadn’t won anything with the group of players so, to win the FA Cup as a group last year, only made us hungry for more success because the enjoyment after no-one forgets. Every player in the squad wants that same feeling again. We just have to go for every prize.”

His final full season with the club saw the culmination of everything he had worked hard for during his time at The Etihad as City became champions of England for the first time since 1968. However, it was also the season that his role at City began to diminish as he played only 14 league games for the club, a statistic unthinkable during previous seasons, as Roberto Mancini looked for something different in order to push City to the next level. No one suffered more from Mancini’s switch to a more offensive style of play than De Jong.
Despite this shift in selection policy, he never once made inflammatory comments to forge a transfer. In fact, he often said all the right things.

“The team is the main thing now. Obviously everybody wants to play for themselves individually, but it’s not always going to happen, because we have a big squad. But for the team we just have to go now and try and win as many trophies as we can.”

However, Mancini had other ideas and he left City for AC Milan, a club with glorious tradition and a history of having great Dutch players. The signings of Rodwell and Javi Garcia offer an insight into Mancini thinking. Both are defensive players but both are arguably technically better with the ball. It seems De Jong’s limitations on the ball may have seen him fall victim of Mancini’s evolution. He was what Cantona termed ‘a water-carrier’; a non-flashy midfielder who would sit and break up play before giving the ball to players with more ability, something we may miss in the coming months and years.

His move to Milan is one he is relishing and he made his full debut in the recent 3-1 victory over Bologna.

“When I watched Milan in the 80s and the 90s, I dreamt of coming here to play for them. Finally I’m here at Milan and therefore I must thank Dutchmen like Van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard and Seedorf. We have a young squad that needs to be built again, but I’m happy to be a part of this project. I want to contribute to the future success of Milan.”

No one can deny the history of AC Milan and It’s fitting that De Jong should get a move to such an esteemed club. Newspaper talk of a switch to QPR, where he would have been re-united with ex-City boss Mark Hughes, thankfully never materialised. De Jong deserves to wear the shirt of a great club – he is the ultimate professional – and every City fan wishes him well. He will always be remembered here in Manchester.

In Milan, De Jong didn’t get a lot of time to present himself. He copped a nasty injury and is still on a recovery trail. “I like what I’m seeing here in Milan. A lot. The Milan model resembles the Ajax model. Young players are offered a chance to show themselves.

A tore achilles ended his season early and slowly he is reclaiming his leadership role in midfield. De Jong has not seen a lot of new signings. “From what I hear, the club wants to secure CL football first. I’m sure they have a list of names, but the talents we have coming through are pretty good and I like this new model. AC Milan is in development now and if you want to offer the youth players a chance, you need to take time to do this.” De Jong was part of Man City which tried to buy success. His new club doesn’t work like that. “That is cool. There are more ways that lead to success. I think we are one of the favorites for the title and I am convinced we will do really well.” De Jong enjoyed playing PSV. “It will be quite a job to brush them off. They have done very well. It was an exciting game and very open. I thin PSV deserves credit for this. Their willingness to play their best was very positive. The game in Italy will be different though. We will simply do what we have to do and despite my sympathy for PSV, AC Milan will qualify.” Nigel de Jong was Karim Rekik’s mentor at Man City for years and the two forged a good friendship. Rekik calls Nigel “Uncle” and Nigel calls Rekik “Baby Tarzan”, for his physical development in Manchester City’s gym….

Here is a little clip of the Nigel de Jong of Ajax:

And this….

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Clarence Seedorf, King of the Champions League

While Europe is preparing for a German CL and Arjen Robben is trying to talk some bravado into himself (he really really wants it) and even the most optimistic Oranje supporter can find some reason to see a Dutch feint stripe of glory in Borussia Dortmund ( Bert van Marwijk had something to do with the Dortmund’s current success as he turned the club around in the mid naughties when the Borussen were out of money and Bert had to rely on the youth system to survive) and while we will look at the result tomorrow, it is fun – I thought – to focus on the most successful player Holland ever had.

Clarence Seedorf. Master midfielder. CL record holder. Serial trophy winner. Entrepreneur. Humanitarian. Sports ambassador. Cosmopolitan. Penalty choker. Global Brand. Wise guy.

When he visited Brazil some time back with (now) King WA and Maxima, one camera team followed the royal couple, while the rest followed the King of Panna.

I have never been a huge fan of Seedorf. But secretly I wanted to be him.

When he was 13 years old, his name went was whispered in the streets of Amsterdam. The supporters visiting De Toekomst on a daily basis, knew it. “There is another one coming…” Since the days of Jopie Cruyff, that little sentence holds so much promise…

“There is another one coming…”…. Louis van Gaal, Dennis Bergkamp, Martin van Geel, Rob Reinders, Marco van Basten, Gerald Vanenburg, Dick van Burik, John van ‘t Schip, Cedric van der Gun, Tarik Oulida, Frank Rijkaard… Sometimes they’d make it, sometimes they didn’t….

Clarence Seedorf was lucky that no one compared him to Cruyff (as was done with players like Van ‘t Schip). A comparison no one can carry, really. But if comparison was needed, I believe Brazilian legend Pele would be more relevant.

Physically strong, with a truly positive outlook on life and attitude, extremely skilled (although Pele could head the ball and I don’t think I ever saw Clarence do this) and very smart (not sure about Pele on this one…).

But comparisons fall short.

With 37 years on the clock and another title in the backpack (Botafogo in Brazil), Clarence is now looking at the next step in his career. Winning another CL is probably not happening for him, although Ancelotti might try and sign him for one more season at Real Madrid? Who knows…

Seedorf’s name, however, is being linked to AC Milan again. This time, not as a player, but as Allegri’s successor. Seedorf, who was just offered a sped-up training course with the KNVB, would take the reigns with Paulo Maldini, the rumour goes….

He looks back with a big smile on his year in Brazil. “What is not to like? The city of Rio is amazing! I had this appartment overlooking the Ipanema and the Copacabana. I’d drive to practice in the morning and felt like a tourist every day. What a city!”.

Seedorf used to be a late comer. Sleeping in, practice late in the day, late dinner in Milan and then some more hours spent with the family and good wine…

In Brazil, it works the other way around. To escape the tropical humidity, the Botafogo players train early in the morning and go to bed early at night.

“It took some adapting, haha, but I got used to it and it works well. Practice early in the morning was never my thing, but now I do have more time to do other things at the club.”


Yes. Apart from being their star midfielder, Seedorf is also management consultant. He trains from 9 to 11 am. Then it’s lunch with the players and while they go off to do their thing, Seedorf works at all other levels of the club. He walks around and goes from manager office to fitness center, from admin department to the website team…

“As you will know, I can’t sit still. I have too much energy for that. I have worked at top level in football for 20 years. At Ajax, Samp, Real Madrid, Inter and AC Milan I always had my eyes open. I asked questions. I’m inquisitive. I need to know things. And as such, I developed my own vision and Botafogo asked me to come and help them. So I do.”

Seedorf’s biggest interest lies in the physical body. Physiology. And the medical head at Botafogo is his biggest friend and fan. Altamiro Bottino: “Clarence has taught me a lot. His body is like a work of art. And he was a regular in the Milan Labs. I do graphs and stats for 20 years, but when Clarence came I had to redo the scales of the graphs. He was way ahead of all the others here. I received his stats from his ten years (!) at Milan and his physical condition now is as good as it was when he was 26 years old…. Amazing. And take into account that conditions are tougher here, with the humidity. So actually, he is fitter than when he was 26 years old….”

There many an experienced player who decided to have some fun in Brazilian football and most of them never produced. When Seedorf decided to go to the land of Samba, some were skeptical. But Seedorf delivered.

“Seedorf is a tsunami. When he came here, he changed everything,” says Bottino. “Before Seedorf, players left the practice when the coach blew the final whistle. Now, thanks to Seedorf, they hang around, they practice set-pieces, they do individual work, etc….. And you know what, I think Clarence has 3 more years of top football in him. It’s his mind that will determine when he stops, not his body.”

Seedorf’s decision to move to Brazil was quite a surprise for many. Not for the ones who know him. Tottenham Hotspur, Hiddink’s Anzhi, Fenerbahce and LA Galaxy were vying for his signature. He even spent a week with Galaxy and his buddy David Beckham but decided for Botafogo. “I never went to LA to check Galaxy out. I was there to keep myself fit for that period and to spend some time with Becks. But their management offered me a deal and I politely listened. But Brazil was always my priority. I love the Brazilian competition, I spent a lot of holidays in Rio already and love the city and Brazil is doing well as a country too. It has a buzz, I love it. And Botafogo allowed me a bigger role than just player.”

What has Clarence changed at the club, for instance?

“A couple of quick wins to start off with. After a game, the players would leave to go home. And the next morning, they’d go to do treatments of knocks and the likes and plan for the next game. Wrong! You need to do this immediately after a game. Once the game ends, the prep for the next one starts. Treatment is needed immediately, to improve fitness. Another example is the warming up. It was amateur hour. The players needed 5 to 10 minutes in the game to find their focus and rhythm. This is how you are constantly behind the 8-ball. Another little thing….when we walked into the dressing room, our jerseys were all lying about on a table. I needed those to be hanging on coathangers on the spots of the players. That gives a player a kick when he walks into the dressing room. It looks great. It gives confidence. Little things, maybe, but important….”

He goes on… “I also worked with a sports psychologist. We’d plan training camps and little workshops. We’d talk about tactics, about what we needed to improve, about each others strengths and weaknesses…. Simply trying to become more professional.”

Coach de Oliveira (52 years old) considers Seedorf to be one of his guides. “He is like a mentor to many here. I am his coach, yes. I am the man in charge of football, but Clarence is like a walking football seer, I would be stupid not to listen. My door is always open for him.”

Seedorf likes his coach, a lot. “He is super intelligent, warm and open for outside influences. Not all coaches have that. Some would see me as a threat. Carlo Ancelotti is another man with whom I have that. He was a strong player himself, and he doesn’t mind players speaking their minds. Unlike other people I worked with…”

Despite his habit of winning trophies, it’s not winning that Seedorf is focusing on. “Winning? Is not what you focus on. Winning is simply the result of what you focus on. I focus on getting better every day. And if you do well, you’ll be better than the rest. If you work hard enough and are lucky.”

But, Botafogo won the title. For the first time since 2005. Back in the days, when Garrincha was Botafogo’s top player in the 1960s, Botafogo was a force to be reckoned with. The club desperately wants to get back to that stage and break the hegemony of Flamengo and Fluminese.

The Dutch National Team will be playing their football in June 2014 in Brazil. What will the climate impact be for that?

“Not too big. June is perfect. Probably 25 degrees all around. It’s winter in Brazil then. But still humid. But with the right nutrition, and rest periods, it should be fine.”

The KNVB and Louis van Gaal have expressed their wish to use Seedorf as an ambassador for Oranje in Brazil. That must be nice for the ex-international. “Funny that! I read that too. But Van Gaal was here, apparently, 3 months ago but never contacted me. As I’ve never heard anything from the KNVB either. But they have my phone number for 25 years or so. And Louis knows me. He knows I like direct communications. But I won’t go into it via the media myself. Next topic?”

Oranje and Seedorf….

A topic that deserves a book of its own maybe? A player who would easily fall in the same list of names as Cruyff, Van Hanegem, Bergkamp, Rijkaard, Koeman, Van Basten… Why was his Oranje career such a disappointment?

The World Cup 2010 would have been the last tournament where he could have played for Oranje. Although according to this physiology, Brazil2014 is still an option….

“I believe the Van Basten period could have been a good one, potentially. I looked forward to the Euro2008 with him. But he was never convinced of me it seems. He didn’t see a pivotal role for me. I was one of the players…. Marco was too headstrong I think. Didn’t open up to other people’s opinions. I think this is why he clashed with Van Bommel and Van Nistelrooy too. Marco is too Dutch. I felt he never believed in me and I couldn’t pump myself up for a role on the sideline anymore. I am an all-or-nothing kinda guy.”

Bert van Marwijk never even called the midfielder up for a session. “He said in the media I was too good to be a benchwarmer…. Well…that said it all….”

Seedorf is clearly disappointed in Van Basten, more so than Van Marwijk. “Bert reached the finals with his squad in 2010. You can say that he did well. With Marco, I share the same football vision. I believe that with Mark and Ruud in the squad – and myself – he could have had an experienced ax in the team. Marco has the right attitude in terms of football tactics and technics, but he is too Dutch, too soft in his mentality. You need to be a killer and as a coach you need to be ego-less. I believe he was too….too Dutch… Weird, as he was at Milan where it’s all about the performance…but hey…. He was young and inexperienced, I’m sure he’ll look back at this and realise it could have been different.”

Seedorf believes Koeman is better equipped for National Team Manager. “You want to win silverware with Holland, you have to be realistic. Koeman was the last coach to bring Ajax far in the CL? And he was criticised for being too realistic in his tactics… Well…. what is it you want, right? I think Koeman mixes the Dutch style with South European shrewdness. He’d be a good team manager.”

Seedorf is really happy with the way Ajax is developing, with lots of his ex-mates now in the key roles. “That is just awesome. And you know what, apart from some little surprises, it was all predictable. These guys developed themselves apart from being a player and they are all where they are for a reason. Overmars was already active in business and with investing when he was a player. He belongs in the board room. Frank de Boer was a coach already when he played. Edwin van der Sar was a bigger surprise, but Edwin is the most pure, honest and loyal bloke you can find. If Ajax wants those values to reign, they picked the right guy. Dennis was a bit of a surprise. I have the highest respect for him. It was Dennis who took me under his wing at Ajax, when I was a youngster. Him and Aron Winter. Dennis is super intelligent, did you know that? I expected him to do something totally different outside of football. But as an assistant coach, I’m sure he is worth his weight in gold. Jaap Stam, haha, I never expected him to become a coach. I expected Jaap to sit on the sofa all day with his family and his huge dog, hahahaha. Don’t tell him I said this!”

Seedorf compares the Ajax direction with the way CL finalist Bayern Munich has been working for quite some time now. Is there a position within Ajax for Seedorf, maybe?

“You never know…. I have lots of energy still, so that won’t stop me….”

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