Former Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf reveals the superpower that helped him earn a unique place in UEFA Champions League history.
Article top media content
It is seven years since Clarence Seedorf hung up his well-worn boots but the Dutch master still holds a unique piece of UEFA Champions League history: the only man to win the UEFA Champions League with three clubs (Ajax 1995, Real Madrid 1998, AC Milan 2003 and 2007).
Speaking as part of the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, here he looks back on a 22-year career that began when he was 16, and the spider-sense that took him right to the top.
On his playing style…
When I broke into the Ajax first team, I played every single position besides left-back and goalkeeper. I was 16 when I started, fit, so I would jump in and play in any role. That gave me a capacity to adapt during games, to understand what was needed. When you play different roles you understand what that position requires.
I also had the mindset of a No10, an attacking midfielder, or a striker because that's what I was when I was a kid. So there was that creative part of me and a duty to defend, because I was a midfielder. I was like a spider in a web that has everything under control. When needed, I would defend and when needed I would attack. I would just play the role in the web.
On his European debut…
My first match on the European stage came with Ajax, where I was thrown in by Louis van Gaal as a youngster – I was 16 still – against Vitória Guimarães, as a right-back. I've seen youngsters over the years getting completely lost due to the pressure, due to things they don't know, due to the fact that, all of a sudden, they're playing with their idols. And the pressure that you want to perform. You need the right balance and, in that match, I had it.
On his greatest Champions League night…
The Manchester United match in Milan [in the 2007 semi-finals]. After losing [the first leg 3-2] to that amazing Manchester United team, to win 3-0 at home and keep a clean sheet, and restrict them to just a few chances. Manchester United were famous for always scoring, home or away.
So we – I'm talking about the city, the people, everybody! – considered that to be the perfect match. Tactically, it was perfect; the moments when we scored the goals were perfect, and the way the team performed was perfect.
On who he wishes he'd played with…
This is tough. Didier Drogba and I would meet every now and then. He would say, ‘You should come to Chelsea’, and I would say, ‘You should come to Milan’. It never happened, obviously. He would have been a perfect striker for me to serve. He also was the type of striker who would serve his midfielders, make the runs, give the assists.
So I would say Drogba. There are many others, but we had the conversations so I’m going to go with him.
On his favourite current midfielder…
When I look at technical midfielders, obviously Kevin De Bruyne is one I've always liked to watch, because of his way of thinking. Physically we're not the same, but his way of thinking is very similar to mine. When I see him making passing choices … I like him very much; I think he is an excellent champion.
Check out @nissansports to see more legends taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF.