Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 01/18/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
When AC Milan director Adriano Galliani remarked that incoming manager Clarence Seedorf would "give a jolt" to the slumping Serie A side he wasn't exaggerating.
Just four days removed from his retirement as a player and yet to oversee his first match in charge of the Rossoneri, Seedorf's return to the San Siro has nevertheless been all that anyone around the team -- players, administrators, reporters, fans -- has wanted to discuss.
And that, at least in the mind of club owner and former Italian president Silvio Berlusconi, will have already helped justify the somewhat controversial appointment of a long-time Milan midfielder without either coaching experience or the credentials typically required by the Italian Football Federation.
The sports dailies, of which there are many in Italy, have been plastered with pictures of Seedorf since his Tuesday exit from Brazilian side Botafogo, and everyone from current player Nigel de Jong to iconic striker Andriy Shevchenko to Juventus boss Antonio Conte has been quick to offer their best wishes to the likeable Dutchman.
Even Russia manager Fabio Capello, who worked at the San Siro in a trio of stints between 1987 and 1998, seemed to back off previous statements in which he advised Seedorf against jumping straight into the Milan job when, in a Friday interview with the club's official television channel, he expressed his belief that the 37-year-old had everything it would take to succeed.
"(Seedorf) has always had a great deal of character, and that's something you never lose -- no matter the role," Capello added.
Character, incidentally, is something Milan have quite clearly been lacking through what has so far been a disastrous campaign.
The seven-time European champions have won just twice in Serie A since the third week of October, and coming into Sunday's match at home to Hellas Verona -- which will be Seedorf's first as manager -- they sit 10 points back of their promoted opponents, 20 adrift of the Champions League places and 30 in arrears of table-toppers Juventus.
As far as performances are concerned Seedorf's "jolt" had better translate into improved results, and to that end it seems the four-time Champions League winner is planning a tactical shake-up intended to accommodate Milan's attacking strengths -- lining up Keisuke Honda, Kaka and Robinho in support of Mario Balotelli in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
"Seedorf will shake up the team," Galliani confirmed on Friday. "I have only had positive vibes about him so far. He is very motivated for this adventure."
Of course, motivation will take a rookie manager only so far. But this isn't the first time Berlusconi has played a hunch in his appointments.
In 1987 he hired former shoe salesman Arrigo Sacchi to coach Milan and was repaid with a Scudetto and two European Cups.
Only time will tell if Seedorf can deliver similar success, but for the moment at least the critics have been appeased.
In a Friday interview with atopmercato.com, Milan midfielder Nigel De Jong sounded confident of an immediate turn-around under Seedorf, saying, "We will try to climb back up the standings and return to the European places...We have the elements and the talent to have a great second half to the season.
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2014 C6
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