Veteran international ends playing career to take charge of Milan
Seedorf will become first black coach in Serie A since 1995
Midfielder made over 400 appearances for San Siro side
Dutchman replaces Massimiliano Allegri, sacked on Monday after Milan's dismal Serie A start
The unsavory issue of racism in Italian football could be tested like never before following the news that former Netherlands international Clarence Seedorf is to take charge of AC Milan.
Even though Milan has yet to formally confirm his appointment, the 37-year-old is in line to become the first black manager in Serie A in nearly two decades.
The last black coach to guide a leading Italian side was Brazilian Jarbas ‘Cane’ Faustinho, who took joint control of Napoli in the 1994-95 season alongside Vujadin Boskov.
Seedorf announced his appointment at a news conference in Brazil while simultaneously retiring as a player following a stellar career – with Rio de Janeiro’s Botafogo proving to be the well-traveled midfielder’s last club.
“All the experience I have gained in this year and a half at Botafogo is going to help me in my next venture, which will be as coach of Milan,” Seedorf told reporters in Brazil on Tuesday.
He takes the Milan job despite boasting no previous coaching experience.
The former Real Madrid and Ajax Amsterdam star’s agent said a two-and-a-half-year contract has been signed to replace Massimiliano Allegri, who was fired on Monday following a dismal run of results.
At the halfway stage of the Serie A season, the seven-time European champions stand eleventh in the table – six points off the relegation zone and a worrying 30 behind league leaders Juventus.
Seedorf, who won two Champions League and two Serie A titles with Milan as a player, must not only try to arrest the team’s worrying slump but also run the potential gauntlet of racism in a country whose football has been plagued by it in recent times.
In 2013 alone, leading sides Lazio, Roma and Inter were all sanctioned following racial abuse by their own supporters.
The incident that attracted the biggest headlines came twelve months ago as Kevin-Prince Boateng led Milan in a walk-off after the Ghanaian international was subjected to racist abuse in a friendly against lower-tier side Pro Patria.
Juventus president Andrea Agnelli recently told CNN that Italy was some 40 years behind a country such as England in terms of its attitude towards black people.
However, Seedorf had more immediate challenges to wrestle with as he took a phone call from Milan chairman Silvio Berlusconi on Monday.
“The call came in the middle of the training session. Obviously, it’s a place where I spent 10 years of my life and I have a very close relationship with the president so when he asked me I couldn’t say no,” explained the Dutchman, who said he pondered overnight the wrench of retiring from playing.
“After 22 years, it was a difficult night. But I am very satisfied with what I’ve done in my career.”
The powerful midfielder made his debut for local side Ajax way back in 1992, prior to joining a host of Europe’s top sides: Sampdoria, Real Madrid, Inter and Milan.
During this time, he became the first man to win Champions League titles with three different clubs - triumphing with Ajax in 1995, Real in 1998 and Milan in both 2003 and 2007.
In 2012, he left Milan to join Botafogo as the veteran Dutch international sampled football outside of Europe for the first time in his career – going on to further embellish his trophy cabinet with a Rio league crown.
His displays helped Botafogo qualify for the Copa Libertadores for the first time in 17 years, as one of Brazil’s most famous clubs finally returned to form.
SAN SIRO RETURN
On Tuesday, a man with over 400 appearances for the Rossoneri rejected the idea that he would find it difficult to lead players alongside whom he once lined up.
“Being in charge of former teammates won’t cause a problem – on the contrary, I know them,” said a man chosen above former striker Filippo Inzaghi, with Milan’s youth coach having been linked with the job.
“I am very happy to have this dream chance to go back.”
The Surinam-born star had reportedly been working on his coaching badges while in Brazil and will need all his years of experience to turn around a club that has lost the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Seedorf himself in recent years.
The trio were all part of Milan’s last Scudetto, delivered by Allegri in his maiden season in charge in 2010-2011.
Seedorf must now improve the 18-time Italian champions’ chronic form, with the likes of Mario Balotelli, Kaka and Stephan El Shaarawy having won just five of their 19 league games this season.
Next month, a man who once dominated the Champions League on the pitch must negotiate his first match in charge as Milan meet high-flying Spaniards Atletico Madrid in the Round of 16.