- POSTED: 19 Jan 2014 02:29
Former playing great Clarence Seedorf said he has "no doubts" AC Milan will rejoin Italy and Europe's elite, and is counting on misfiring striker Mario Balotelli to lead the charge.
MILAN: Former playing great Clarence Seedorf said he has "no doubts" AC Milan will rejoin Italy and Europe's elite, and is counting on misfiring striker Mario Balotelli to lead the charge.
A new era in Milan's history begins on Sunday when Seedorf, who spent 10 golden years at the seven-time European champions as a player, takes charge of his first game as coach at home to high-flying Verona.
Milan currently sit 11th in Serie A, 30 points behind leaders Juventus and 20 behind Napoli in the third and final qualifying spot for the Champions League.
But in his first press conference since arriving at the San Siro on Wednesday, Seedorf called on Milan to have faith in their potential to climb back up the table.
"I think that difficult moments have to be analysed with a view to finding solutions and never losing sight of the quality that we have here," said Seedorf, the the first man to win the Champions League with three different clubs after stellar spells with Ajax, Real Madrid and Milan.
"The team definitely haven't expressed their quality in terms of the numbers produced, but that can happen and I have no doubt that the situation will come back to what it once was."
Fellow Dutchmen and former Rossoneri Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit were among those who expressed concerns over Seedorf's lack of credentials -- Milan is his first coaching appointment.
"It's a risk," said Van Basten.
Gullit added: "Clarence has no coaching experience and has to prove himself."
But the 37-year-old's arrival seems to have had a positive impact, at least off the pitch, so far.
Seedorf was visited by and lunched with former Milan coach Fabio Capello while Balotelli -- who at times seemed frustrated playing under former coach Massimiliano Allegri -- said the Dutchman commands respect.
The Italy striker was spoken to at length by Seedorf in midweek and on Saturday told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "Personally I'm happy.
"He's won everything there is to win and he only gave up playing last week. It's only normal you listen to him. You have a champion sitting in front of you."
Seedorf said he will tinker with the 4-3-2-1 formation favoured by Allegri to use a 4-3-1-2 that, in theory, would see new signing Keisuke Honda play in the hole just behind Balotelli and Kaka.
On the former, he said: "Mario is a sweet guy... I'm here to help him grow and he's given me his full availability."
The latter is a former teammate of Seedorf's and the Dutchman is counting on a positive contribution from the Brazilian.
"Kaka is a friend more than an ex-teammate," said Seedorf. "I know I can count on him as a person first, then as a player."
Seedorf admitted, however, he still has plenty to prove: "It's emotional to be here obviously... but I have a lot to show.
"I feel ready but it'll be the work I do and the results achieved that will show if I can face this new challenge.
"I've only been here two days and I still have to get to know the team and I'll be trying to do that as quickly as possible.
"I'll give them my ideas and from tomorrow (Sunday) we'll take our first steps on a road that, with the willingness of all involved that I've seen already, will allow things to get better."