As AC Milan look to confirm their place in the last 16 by defeating Olympique de Marseille, coach Leonardo singled out evergreen Clarence Seedorf, 33, as the man most likely to lead their advance.
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As AC Milan bid to confirm their place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League by beating Olympique de Marseille, Leonardo picked out evergreen Clarence Seedorf as the man most likely to lead their advance.
'Example to follow'
In a topsy-turvy season for the Rossoneri, Seedorf has been a model of consistency; a major reason why Leonardo is looking ahead to the rest of the competition with optimism. "He is a master at being the deciding factor, even after so many years he has such an inspiring desire," the coach said. "He is the example to follow." The 33-year-old was a key figure under Carlo Ancelotti, but many expected his role to be reduced following Leonardo's appointment in the summer.
The erstwhile Netherlands international, however, is proving as indispensable as ever. Seedorf has been a mainstay in midfield while the tactics and personnel have changed around him. Leonardo started the season with two holding midfielders, but as his side struggled he switched to a more attacking formation. "I had a great relationship with Ancelotti, but I have to admit that changing coach was a great motivation for me," the former FC Internazionale Milano player said. "Leonardo gave us confidence even when we were going through hard times at the start of the season. We grew thanks to some good performances and I think he played a key role in that development."
Having won the European Champion Clubs' Cup four times with three different teams, Seedorf could be forgiven for resting on his laurels, but he is hungry for more. "We want to qualify for the next stage of the competition, and we are so close to doing that, but more than qualifying for the last 16, what we really want is to win the UEFA Champions League. I think we have the right spirit, a positive attitude: we believe we can do it."
Milan beat Marseille 2-1 on Matchday 1, but face a real challenge to repeat the feat at San Siro where they have not won in four UEFA Champions League games. Another commanding performance from Seedorf could again make the difference. As he stakes a late claim for a recall to the Netherlands FIFA World Cup squad, it would come as no surprise should he do so. "I don't care about that at the moment, I'm totally focused on what is happening here in Italy with my team," he said. "I'm doing everything I can for Milan. Then we just have to wait and see. What I can say for sure is I will do my best."