After Clarence Seedorf brought down the curtain on his playing career on Tuesday, it is time to reflect on the unique achievements of the former Netherlands midfielder. The only man to have won the UEFA Champions League with three different clubs – AFC Ajax, Real Madrid CF and AC Milan – Seedorf considers himself to have a special bond with Europe's premier club competition.
"Emotions, memories – more good ones than bad ones, fortunately," he said as he reflected on the competition. "But specifically great moments of entertainment … entertainment and great football, unforgettable evenings. I think that is what it's all about: experience, emotions, and the special touch that the Champions League brings on and off the field." UEFA.com remembers Seedorf's four UEFA Champions League triumphs.
1994/95: AFC Ajax
Seedorf made his first-team debut on 28 October 1992, coming on for current Ajax coach Frank de Boer in a cup match against VVV Venlo. He became the club's youngest Eredivisie debutant in November that year at the age of 16 years, seven months and 28 days, and soon became a crucial member of the golden generation. Guided by veterans Danny Blind and Frank Rijkaard, this was a youthful outfit that included future stars such as the De Boer twins, Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Jari Litmanen and Patrick Kluivert, and reached its peak in the 1994/95 UEFA Champions League.
Two 2-0 group stage victories against Milan boded well and Louis van Gaal's charges repeated the trick in the final, defeating the Rossoneri 1-0 courtesy of substitute Kluivert's late strike. "Everyone dreams of winning a European Cup final, and I was lucky to do so at just 19," said Seedorf. "As soon as I woke up [the day after the final] I felt different, strange, somehow special. We had a very talented young team, with a group of six or seven players who were the leaders of the squad. Some of us played together from very young and we felt like brothers."
1997/98: Real Madrid CF
Seedorf left Ajax after that glorious night in Vienna, spending a solitary season at UC Sampdoria prior to moving to the Spanish capital. He tasted European success in his second campaign with Madrid, helping the Merengues to overcome holders Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals. He then came up against former team-mate Davids in the decider against Juventus, held at their old stamping ground, the Amsterdam ArenA.
The showpiece was again settled by a solitary goal, Predrag Mijatović this time doing the damage midway through the second half to earn Madrid a first European Cup in 32 years. "It had become more than an obsession for the club," said Seedorf. "Every day we would go and eat in a restaurant and all everyone talked about was the final. Now I am going to have a party [in Amsterdam] and then again in Madrid!"
2002/03 and 2006/07: AC Milan
The Dutch schemer joined FC Internazionale Milano in 2000 and only two years later moved to the Nerazzurri's city rivals. He again lifted Europe's biggest club prize in his first term at the club, helping Milan to defeat former employees Madrid in the group stage, Ajax in the last eight and Inter in the semi-finals.
Milan once more overcame the Bianconeri in the final, prevailing on penalties – Seedorf missed his – after a goalless draw at Old Trafford. "It's incredible, incredible," he said after that game. "I don't have any words. I am so, so happy. It has been a great spectacle for us, a great atmosphere, a great stadium."
There was still more to come. Runners-up in 2005, Seedorf and Carlo Ancelotti's side gained revenge with victory against Liverpool FC in the 2007 decider, Filippo Inzaghi scoring both goals. Seedorf started and was substituted in added time.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.