If anyone in the AC Milan squad needs reminding why their hosts on Tuesday, AFC Ajax, must not be taken lightly, a quiet word with Clarence Seedorf should do the trick.
The former Netherlands midfielder began his career with the Amsterdam club and, in his third and final season in Ajax's first team, helped them defeat Milan, his future employers, in the 1995 UEFA Champions League final. Hence he, more than anyone, understands why it is important to look beyond Ajax's Matchday 1 defeat at Real Madrid CF when assessing the threat they pose to the Rossoneri.
The strength of Ajax lies in their enthusiasm," said the 34-year-old of a club playing UEFA Champions League football again after a five-year absence. "There is more to it than looking at that first match in Madrid, where they missed Luis Suárez. Tomorrow it will be about total concentration. I have a lot of respect for Ajax, who I certainly do not underestimate. I am never surprised when a team loses without a chance at Real Madrid. Consider it as an important experience for them.
"It was their first game in the Champions League for years. Real played a fantastic match and would have kept the pressure for 90 minutes on any opponent that day. Ajax have made a good start in their league, they are top. We don't look only at their results but at the quality of their team and the motivation they will have playing against sides like AC Milan and Madrid."
Seedorf predicts an open contest. "Looking for a draw is not the mentality of a big club, and I think Ajax are not thinking about a draw either." Milan started their Group G campaign with a 2-0 victory over AJ Auxerre and Seedorf, a UEFA Champions League winner with three clubs, hopes they can go far in the competition as they seek to end a trophy drought stretching back to the 2007 FIFA Club World Cup. "Milan are at a stage of growing towards more, with a new coach and a new team. We are trying to at least win one prize," he said.
As for his return to the place where he first tasted success, Seedorf said it was "good to be back" for the first time since Milan's 1-0 win in November 2003. "It's a special moment. It is not always normal to return to the place you played before so I am going to try to enjoy it."
And could he envisage ever returning to serve his old club again? "I really don't know. I try to enjoy every day, I do not look too far ahead at this moment in my career. I hope the best for Ajax, I hope they can grow further, and hope they do well in the Champions League on a yearly basis, as that is important for the young players' development. But I will still be in Italy for a while yet."
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