By Stefan Coerts
When Clarence Seedorf broke into Ajax’s first team at the tender age of 16, then coach Louis van Gaal hailed the midfielder for his maturity and his eagerness to learn and understand tactics.
Although the Dutchman was only at the start of what would turn out to be a glittering playing career, he already seemed destined to become a coach himself once he eventually decided to hang up his boots.
Fast forward a little over 20 years and the time has come for Seedorf to make his foray into management as he prepares to take charge of AC Milan following the dismissal of Massimiliano Allegri on Monday.
Seedorf’s appointment has yet to be made official, but his return to San Siro after a one-and-a-half year spell with Botafogo seems inevitable. The 37-year-old is set to replace caretaker boss Mauro Tassotti after Wednesday’s Coppa Italia clash against Spezia and is expected to sit on the Milan bench for the first time versus Verona on Sunday.
The iconic midfielder’s imminent appointment has already caused plenty of controversy over the past few months, with several high-profile names stating that Seedorf lacks the experience to take charge of a major team at this stage of his career.
"I hope for Milan and for Seedorf himself that he doesn't become Milan's coach. He's not ready for it," former Rossoneri star Zvonimir Boban recently stated, an opinion supported by coaching legend Fabio Capello.
|SEEDORF'S CAREER IN NUMBERS
There’s a number of recent examples to back up the stance that his inexperience could prove to be too much of an obstacle for Seedorf.
Andrea Stramaccioni, for example, took charge of Inter in 2012 without any previous experience as head coach and was sacked again just 14 months later after an unsuccessful spell in charge of the Nerazzurri.
Elsewhere, former Italy international Vincenzo Montella found himself in a similar position after he was appointed caretaker Roma boss halfway through the 2011-12 campaign, only to be released again at the end of the season.
Outside Serie A, Milan legend Ruud Gullit has endured a wretched career after he accepted the player-manager job at Chelsea in 1996 without completing any form of coaching apprenticeship elsewhere.
On the other hand, Seedorf boasts a number of characteristics that speak in his favour, too, as the Dutchman has always been known as a knowledgeable player with excellent leadership skills.
"Seedorf has the potential to become the best coach in the world. He possesses a lot of football knowledge and has charisma. In reality, he is already a coach on the pitch," Thiago Silva said about his then team-mate back in 2011.
The current Paris Saint-Germain defender’s assessment of his former colleague is quite telling. Whereas the majority of footballers across the globe generally rely on their coach to come up with a tactical plan and then simply execute the orders they’re given, Seedorf has been thinking as a coach his entire career and has always had the ability to re-order things if tactical adjustments were to be made during a match.
His intelligence on the pitch, vision and tactical awareness were arguably his most impressive attributes during his active career and there’s no denying these feats are vital for any modern coach to have a shot at success. Additionally, the Dutchman has been hailed for his professionalism throughout his career while he speaks half-a-dozen languages fluently; Dutch, English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Surinamese.
His flawless reputation at Milan could be a big advantage as he’s reunited with Christian Abbiati, Daniele Bonera and Kaka - all influential figures in the dressing room during his time as a player with the club.
There’s no guarantee that Seedorf will become a success at Milan as the appointment of an unproven and inexperienced coach always remains a risk.
"A good horse is not necessarily a good jockey," former Ajax and Porto coach Co Adriaanse controversially said about Milan legend Marco van Basten when the current Heerenveen boss was set to kick-start his coaching career.
Van Basten has since been unable to prove Adriaanse wrong after frustrating spells in charge of Ajax, Netherlands and Heerenveen. It’s now up to Seedorf to show that a successful playing career could be an advantage after all.
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