Clarence Seedorf, Fluent in six languages, a masters degree in business, and the only football player to have won UEFA’s showpiece event with three different clubs.
Four Champions League medals hanging inside Seedorf’s trophy cabinet in his Milanese home, and a CV which boasts a number of impressive previous employers.
European super-clubs including Real Madrid, Internazionale, AC Milan, Sampdoria, and Ajax were blessed with the presence of the progressive ball-carrying midfielder.
Born in Suriname, the smallest sovereign state in South America, it would be the Oranje jersey of the Netherlands he would pull on at international level.
A visit to Suriname today would offer you the chance to visit The Seedorf Stadion. A €4m footballing arena built by your highness, Clarence Seedorf, footballing royalty, and man of the people.
The aim for the 3500 capacity stadium was to develop football in the third-world country. Seedorf left his birthplace for the Netherlands at two-years-old, but would regularly return to visit his grandfather and extended family.
Within the realms of domestic football, he would win the lot. Seedorf, who now runs a runs a restaurant in Milan with his wife, triumphed in two Champions League campaigns with AC Milan, two in the Spanish capital, and arguably the most impressive of all, in Amsterdam, with Ajax.
Amsterdam to Vienna
PSG’s George Weah took the goalscoring mantle in the 1994/95 Champions League with seven. Ajax’s Jari Litmanen finished one goal behind the now 25th president of Liberia. A feat that would go some way to deciding the destination of the Champions League trophy.
The Amsterdam club, placed in Group D, faced AC Milan, AEK Athens, and Casino Salzburg in the group stages. A confident 2-0 showing in the Netherlands against Milan started the campaign off with a bang.
This Ajax team knew they were good. They had talent, youthfulness, and that all-knowing swag that accompanies a group at the height of their craft.
A 19-year-old Clarence Seedorf was joined in the ranks by Edwin Van der Sar at 24, an 18-year-old Patrick Kluivert, Marc Overmars; 22, Jari Litmanen; 24, Edgar Davids; 22, Nwankwo Kanu; 17, and the two de Boers.
The exuberance, enthusiasm, and hunger, was harnessed and spearheaded by head coach, Louis Van Gaal. A set of names that would reverberate around the world of football for a generation.
Ajax’s trip to Milan produced the same scoreline as their first meeting. 2-0 to the visitors with the would-be Liverpool man again on the scoresheet. Litmanen and Ajax we’re gaining traction. In fact, this trend would continue throughout the competition.
Ajax surged towards the final. The youngsters eased aside Hadjuk Split 3-0 after a goalless draw in Croatia, to allow Ajax to advance past the quarters.
Again, a 0-0 draw away from home in Munich set up an enthralling return leg in Amsterdam. Ajax and Bayern Munich played out a 5-2 thriller. Two goals right before half time, and Litmanen’s second goal after the restart, confirmed Ajax’s flights to Vienna. The semi-final second leg was never in doubt. The Dutch outfit were in the driving seat.
An Ac Milan Shaped Final Obstacle
It would be AC Milan in the final. Group D’s runners up would have their shot at revenge. Two losses in the group stage had left a sour taste for the Italian giants.
Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Marcel Desailly, Ruud Gullit, and Marco van Basten lined the Milan squad in their hunt for to win the 40th edition of the European Cup.
Seedorf, at 19, started the Champions League final in centre midfield, such was his impressiveness at a tender age. Seedorf played with an arrogance. An arrogance in receiving the ball, an arrogance in shrugging off and beating a man. This kid was going to the top. He had it all.
It was tight, and it was nervy, as just shy of 50,000 watched events unfold. Patrick Kluivert entered the field of play on the 70th minute replacing Jari Litmanen. A masterstroke by Louis Van Gaal.
By this time, Seedorf had been replaced by Kanu just before the hour mark. Fifteen minutes after the substitution, Kluivert sent the Champions League to Amsterdam. The 18-year-old consequently handed his career, and the careers of his teammates, a seismic boost. Ajax ran out 1-0 winners. A fairytale in Vienna.
The Ajax men finished seven points clear of Roda JC in the Eredivisie. Kluivert was on hand again, finishing as Ajax’s top goalscorer in the league with 18 goals. At 18-years-old.
Clarence Seedorf and his Search for Silverware
Seedorf’s career continued on an upward trajectory. His performances at such a young age had him in the sights of Europe’s best. The Bernabéu would follow a year at Sampdoria. Clarence Seedorf the Galactico.
Three years after his infamous Ajax triumph, he won it in the white of Madrid in the 1997/98 season under German coach Jupp Heynckes.
Juventus played the role of opposition in a City Seedorf knew well. The Amsterdam arena oversaw a 1-0 Spanish win. Former Yugoslavia international, Predrag Mijatović, with the winner in the 66th minute.
There would be two Dutchmen on the field that day. Both would play 90 minutes in the centre of midfield, and both would impress. The two friends had lifted the coveted silverware together already; Seedorf and Edgar Davids.
Roberto Carlos, Raúl, and Fernando Hierro; a handful of names that ensured Real Madrid were crowned champions of Europe. Seedorf had two to his name, and counting.
Seedorf’s next Champions League trophy lift came for the Italians who Ajax swept away on three occasions, eight years prior. Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Rui Costa, Rivaldo, Andriy Schevchenko, and Fillipo Inzaghi called the San Siro their home at the time.
A squad widely regarded as one of the best. Seedorf had arrived from fierce rivals Internazionale for a smidge over £20m, won a Champions League trophy, and then endured the wrath of Rafa Benitez’s Istanbul comeback in 2005.
Epitomising Seedorf’s willingness to work hard and scrap for every ball, AC Milan fought to earn revenge the following season. Seedorf and his esteemed colleagues snatched the Champions League final away from the Merseyside club in Athens. An Inzaghi brace, pegged back only slightly by Dirk Kuyt’s 89th-minute consolation goal, secured the trophy lift.
Athens was the signalling for Seedorf’s fifth and final Champions League victory. Four European titles with three clubs, spanning a 22-year playing career.
The boy from Suriname is royalty. European footballing royalty.
Graphics and words from Sam Ingram – @SamIngram_