Clarence Seedorf celebrates his 46th birthday today. UEFA.com looks back on his unique achievement in a career full of "unforgettable evenings".
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The only player to have won the UEFA Champions League with three different teams – Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan – Clarence Seedorf considers himself to have a special bond with Europe's premier club competition.
"Emotions, memories – more good than bad, fortunately," he once said as he reflected on the competition. "Great moments of entertainment, great football, unforgettable evenings. I think that's what it's all about: experience, emotions and the special touch that the Champions League brings on and off the field."
UEFA.com recalls the 46-year-old Dutchman's four UEFA Champions League triumphs.
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Then Ajax's youngest ever Eredivisie player, Seedorf broke into the side aged 16 in 1992 and became a crucial member of a golden generation. Guided by veterans Danny Blind and Frank Rijkaard, this was a youthful outfit featuring future stars such as the De Boer twins, Edgar Davids, Jari Litmanen and Patrick Kluivert. They peaked in the 1994/95 UEFA Champions League.
Two 2-0 group stage victories over Milan boded well and Louis van Gaal's troops 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 it at just 19," said Seedorf. "As soon as I woke up [the day after the final], I felt different, strange, somehow special."
Clarence Seedorf basics
Date of birth: 1 April 1976
Clubs: Ajax, Sampdoria, Real Madrid, Inter, AC Milan, Botafogo
Netherlands career: 87 appearances, 11 goals
UEFA Champions League record: 125 appearances, 11 goals
UEFA club competition record:163 appearances, 15 goals
4 UEFA Champions League titles (1994/95 Ajax, 1997/98 Real Madrid, 2002/03 and 2006/07 AC Milan)
2 UEFA Super Cups (2003 and 2007 AC Milan)
5 Domestic titles (1993/94 and 1994/95 Ajax, 1996/97 Real Madrid, 2003/04 and 2010/11 AC Milan)
2 Domestic cups (1992/93 Ajax, 2002/03 AC Milan)
Seedorf left Ajax after that glorious Vienna night, spending a season with Sampdoria before moving to the Spanish capital. He tasted European success during his second term in Madrid, helping the Merengues eliminate holders Dortmund in the semis. The midfielder then came up against former team-mate Davids in the decider against Juventus, held at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Again the showpiece was settled by a solitary goal, Predrag Mijatović doing the damage midway through the second half to earn Madrid's first European Cup in 32 years. "It had become more than an obsession for the club," said Seedorf. "Every day we'd go and eat in a restaurant and all everyone talked about was the final. Now I'm going to have a party [in Amsterdam] and then again in Madrid!"
The Netherlands schemer joined Inter in 2000 and two years later signed for the Nerazzurri's city rivals. He promptly lifted Europe's biggest prize in his first season with Milan, downing former sides Madrid, Ajax and Inter along the way. Milan edged out Juventus in the final, prevailing on penalties – although Seedorf missed his – after a goalless draw at Old Trafford.
"It's incredible, incredible," he said. "I am so, so happy. It has been a great spectacle for us, a great atmosphere, a great stadium."
There was more to come: runners-up in 2004/05, Seedorf and Carlo Ancelotti's team gained revenge with victory against Liverpool in the 2007 Athens showpiece, Filippo Inzaghi getting both Milan goals.
"I think that in 2005 we played better than in 2007, but we lost," Seedorf remembered. "I think that in 2007 maybe Liverpool even played a little bit better than we did, but we were solid and we seized our moments to bring it home. Playing finals is always very delicate. It's about reducing the errors and maximising your opportunities."