Clarence Seedorf celebrates his 45th 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 45-year-old Dutchman's four UEFA Champions League triumphs.
Still Ajax's youngest ever Eredivisie player, Seedorf broke into the side aged 16 in October 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, ousting 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."
Seedorf left Ajax after that glorious Vienna night, spending a season with Sampdoria before moving to the Spanish capital. He tasted European success in 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 Internazionale in 2000 and two years later signed for the Nerazzurri's city rivals. He promptly lifted Europe's biggest prize in his first term with Milan, scalping former sides Madrid, Ajax and Inter along the way. Milan edged out Juventus in the final, prevailing on penalties – albeit 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 2005, Seedorf and Carlo Ancelotti's team gained revenge with victory against Liverpool in the 2007 Athens showpiece, Filippo Inzaghi getting both goals.