Trying to kick-start his coaching career, Clarence Seedorf is back in the place where he thrived as a player.
After two stints as a coach in Italy and China, Seedorf is taking over the helm of Deportivo La Coruna in the Spanish league, where his playing career took off with Real Madrid in the late 1990s.
Seedorf was highly successful as a midfielder, dominating nearly everywhere he played, but his attempts at coaching haven’t been as effective. He was in charge at AC Milan for only four months in 2014, and spent half a season with a second-division club in Chinese football two years ago.
“Coaching is not easy,” Seedorf said this week after being introduced at Deportivo. “There are a lot of coaches out there, that’s why I thank Deportivo for giving me this opportunity.”
Seedorf will have his work cut out to turn around Deportivo’s fortunes.
Deportivo is 18th in the 20-team Spanish league standings, with 17 points from 22 matches, just inside the relegation zone. It hasn’t won its last seven matches, being outscored 24-6.
“I can help the club, and the club can help me,” the 41-year- old Seedorf said. “I like to take on challenges. It would be easy to go to a place where everything is working well.”
Seedorf said his lack of coaching experience won’t keep him from doing a good job. He noted that France great Zinedine Zidane had even less experience when he took over as Real Madrid coach.
“You have to look at the quality of the professional, at his potential,” Seedorf said. “You have to have faith in this young generation of coaches. And this young generation has been doing well.”
Zidane was 43 when he joined Madrid two years ago. He has led the club to two Champions League titles, among other achievements.
Seedorf said he learned from a lot of experienced coaches during his playing career, including Fabio Capello, Louis van Gaal, Carlo Ancelotti, and Marcello Lippi.
“I’ve had the luck to have worked with several important coaches, and I’ve taken a lot from each one of them,” Seedorf said. “As a player, I’ve always been interested in understanding the coaches’ minds, in seeing how they made a group function. Many times my role was to work as a link between the coaches and the players, it was to be a leader. That was something natural for me.”
Deportivo president Tino Fernandez said it was looking for someone with Seedorf’s background.
“We only considered candidates who were leaders,” Fernandez said. “This team needs to improve, and leadership and charisma are key for that. That’s what Seedorf can provide us.”
Seedorf was a prominent player for Real Madrid from 1996-99, helping the club win the Champions League in 1998. He had already won one with Ajax in 1995.
Seedorf left Madrid in 2000 to play for Italian clubs Inter Milan and AC Milan, where he spent most of his career, and won two more Champions Leagues, both with AC Milan. His final playing days were with Brazilian club Botafogo.
Seedorf also had a prominent role playing for the Netherlands for more than a decade
Seedorf took over AC Milan’s coaching job after Massimiliano Allegri was fired in the 2014-15 season. The team wasn’t far from the relegation zone at the time and Seedorf led the club to a seventh-place finish in Serie A. Seedorf said he felt he did a good job, but his contract was not renewed at the end of the season after 11 wins, nine losses and two draws.
Seedorf’s other stint as a coach was with Chinese club Shenzen in 2016. He failed to promote the club to the top-flight after four wins, six losses, and four draws.
His initial contract with Deportivo is good until the end of the season.
Seedorf’s first match with Deportivo is on Monday at home against Real Betis. Tales Azzoni, Madrid, AP