When Clarence Seedorf returned to Milanello two months ago, he claimed to have the anti-virus for the team’s ills. The initial reaction to his treatment was positive.
Brief signs of recovery were discernible. But then Milan’s condition only deteriorated further. It became critical again the weekend before last.
Beaten 4-2 by Parma at San Siro, Milan hadn’t lost by that scoreline in front of their own supporters in 75 years. It was their fourth straight defeat in all competitions. They were 11th with 35 points from 28 games.
To find a worse state of affairs at Milan at this stage of the season you had to go back to 1982, the year they were last relegated.
Protests were held before, during and after the match. A communique issued by the Curva Sud had called on chief executive Adriano Galliani to leave. They’d warned him back in the summer that the defence and midfield required investment, not the attack.
Did he listen? No. He signed Alessandro Matri for €11m, who flopped and is now on loan at Fiorentina.
The ultras asked a number of questions of Galliani. How is it possible, for instance, that he could let another player representative of Milan’s DNA, a strong character in the dressing room, their captain Massimo Ambrosini leave? Why is he offering players like Keisuke Honda and Michael Essien the kind of contracts that might have kept Andrea Pirlo at the club two years ago?
Galliani, the ultras argued, has become too reliant in recruitment on a couple of agents. And whose interests are they acting in? Milan’s or their own? Shouldn’t more effort be put into developing a scouting network?
The criticisms and recommendations made by the Curva were in close alignment with those made by Barbara Berlusconi back in the autumn. Coincidence? Perhaps. But it must be said Galliani wasn’t the sole focus of their derision.
Apart from Riccardo Montolivo [the captain], Daniele Bonera, Christian Abbiati, Kaka, Ignazio Abate, Mattia de Sciglio, Nigel de Jong, Andrea Poli and Giampaolo Pazzini, all of whom are “true professionals” according to the Curva, the conduct of the rest of the squad isn’t befitting that expected of a Milan player.
Far from it. Instead it is composed of “a host of useless overpaid players whose first thought is to posting idiotic pictures of themselves on social media [i.e Balotelli and Kevin Constant] and about booking a table for themselves at a nightclub.”
Following the Parma game and not for the first time this season, Seedorf and a delegation of players met Milan’s ultra chiefs to offer explanations and reassurances. One of the most famous and longstanding among them, il Barone, Giancarlo Capelli, would go on local TV in the week and made a quite sensational claim.
Capelli alleged that soon after Seedorf had taken the Milan job he had told the ultras he didn’t want “three quarters” of the players in the squad.
A denial was forthcoming from Seedorf in Saturday’s pre-match press conference, not that many of the journalists were convinced by it. Why? Because many agreed with the assessment.
Discussing Milan’s problems in La Gazzetta dello Sport a week ago, Paolo Maldini didn’t “blame Clarence” for them:
“Logically he can’t be experienced. He has great courage and personality, but not even Guardiola could do anything about it. [Milan’s] objectives lack clarity. Maybe they could have appointed a more conservative coach to get to the end of the season and then [brought in Seedorf] to allow him to start next year well. [Instead by doing it] this way there’s the risk you burn him.”
And Seedorf is getting burnt by the experience. Last Thursday Gazzetta claimed owner Silvio Berlusconi had given him “seven days” to save his job.
A summit had been held at his Arcore residence attended by Galliani, Barbara Berlusconi and according to conflicting reports Montolivo and Abbiati. Their alleged presence, which was also later denied, added to speculation that the dressing room is divided on Seedorf.
Players have apparently complained about the system or lack thereof. Some haven’t appreciated their deployment out of position either. His decision to disregard the hierarchy and give Philippe Mexes the captain’s armband against Napoli was supposedly met with disillusion.
As have been the exceptions, the excuses, the preferential treatment he has given to Mario Balotelli, which was something his former Manchester City team-mates begrudged Roberto Mancini for.
Blaming his predecessor Massimiliano Allegri hasn’t gone down well, either.
There have been gaffes. Allegedly five minutes late for training after Milan’s defeat to Atletico in Madrid, one paper close to the Berlusconi family also claimed Seedorf had sent Hernan Crespo to ‘spy’ on his former club Parma only for their director of sport Pietro Leonardi to hear about it and tell Roberto Donadoni to change the time of his training session.
“Frankly I don’t know what went on,” Donadoni said, “but I’ll say this: if Seedorf needed some info on Parma he could have called me on the phone. I’ve no secrets to hide.”
Whatever you make of the above, Milanello, it seems, has sprung several leaks. The good ship Seedorf has taken on a lot of water, but it didn’t sink on Sunday.
A 1-1 draw at Lazio led Gazzetta to proclaim him “safe [for now].”Balotelli incidentally started on the bench.
The question is: was it a response to dressing room disgruntlement at his recent behaviour or a decision, as Seedorf indicated, based on form and tactics given his stated opinion that Pazzini’s a striker with the characteristics Lazio defenders struggle with?
That’s up for debate and it of course remains to be seen how Milan line up away at Fiorentina Wednesday night.
The consensus is Seedorf will be kept on providing they don’t get embarrassed at the Artemio Franchi. And even in that scenario you suspect Milan would be reluctant to part company with him not least because it will be expensive.
The contract they gave Seedorf is for two and a half years. Breaking it off would hurt, particularly considering the financial circumstances at Milan and their forecasted absence from Europe next season.
It’s a problem of their own making. Milan have asked an inexperienced swimmer to throw himself in at the deep end knowing he doesn’t have all the badges.
Seedorf, backing himself as he has always done, didn’t shy from taking the plunge even while the wave machine was well and truly on. He should have hesitated.
“In my opinion he has made two mistakes,” wrote Gianni Mura in La Repubblica. “He has trusted in his own ability too much and also in Berlusconi who must have given him the impression that the situation is less prickly than it really is.”
Milan remain in a real tangle. And more than straighten things out the fear is that they will tear and come apart at the seams again between now and the end of the season.
James Horncastle | Follow on Twitter
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- Clarence Seedorf
- Adriano Galliani
- Barbara Berlusconi
- Silvio Berlusconi