Tim Vickery Column: One door opening for Clarence Seedorf closes another; we just wish it wasn’t so soon

Seedorf and his smile will be greatly missed in Brazil - Action Images
In school more than 30 years ago I can vaguely remember studying an HG Wells short story entitled, if memory serves me well, ‘The Door in the Wall.’

The main character waked through such a door as a child, and entered a garden where he found pleasure on such a deep level that he spent his entire life in search of the same feeling.

As an adult the door appeared before him on three separate occasions. Each time he was busy with an important engagement and did not go through. The story ends with his death. He has walked through a door and fallen, as I recall, down a lift shaft. But as he lies dead at the bottom there is a broad smile on his face.

I have thought about this story, for the first time in decades, over the last few days, because I am sure it has some relevance to the set of choices that lay before Clarence Seedorf.

When, out of the blue, he was offered the chance to coach Milan, Seedorf must have felt that he was standing in front of such a door. He has been preparing to become a coach. After ten years there as a player he has a special bond with Milan. And he took over with a wonderful combination of proximity and distance; until eighteen months ago he was a Milan player, giving him intimate knowledge of the staff and the set up. But on the other hand, spending a year and a half on the other side of the Atlantic has supplied a sense of perspective and a separation from former colleagues that makes it much easier to become the boss.

It was impossible, then, to say no to the offer. Seedorf went to bed last Monday night as a Botafogo player and woke up on Tuesday as Milan coach. After all, there was no guarantee that Milan would come knocking again. The door might not reappear.

But there is another way of looking at this. Perhaps Seedorf was already in the garden of infinite pleasure. Maybe it was playing for Botafogo that gave him the real opportunity to walk through the door in the wall.

A few months ago, when Botafogo were right in contention to win the Brazilian Championship, the great Tostao wrote the following; “the current moment is not the best of Seedorf’s career, but it might well be the most pleasurable, carefree and inventive. I imagine that Seedorf is playing today the way that he dreamt of as a child, and never had a chance to put into practice before, because of the rigidity of European discipline.”

There is great wisdom here, and perhaps an error, too. Seedorf in Europe was not restricted by some tactical straight jacket – after all, there is room enough for Lionel Messi to do as he pleases. Rather, Seedorf, for all his greatness, was never anything like quite so outstanding in Europe. But in Brazil he stood head and shoulders above all around him. He was technically better, tactically more aware, intellectually superior and more committed to the collective cause. As a result, he became the Botafogo team. He was given free license inside the 4-2-3-1 system to roam all over the field, to judge where he thought he could be most effective. And wherever he was , that is where the game took place – if he dropped deep, moved out to the flank or went to play at centre forward, he remained the fulcrum of the side.

It would have been fascinating to see him do it all once more during Botafogo’s Copa Libertadores campaign, the club’s first for 18 years. In the away leg of the qualifying round, how would he cope with the altitude of the Ecuadorian capital when Botafogo take on Deportivo Quito? Providing the club get through that one, the next test is at home to San Lorenzo, the reigning champions of Argentina. Before receiving the call from Milan, Seedorf must surely have been imagining these games, looking forward to the occasion and contemplating the best way to win. Another six months and he could have retired having exhausted the possibilities of his playing career. But one door has opened and so another has shut – only time will tell which one was the entrance to the best garden in town.

But it was fun while it lasted. And if Seedorf enjoyed himself playing for Botafogo, I certainly enjoyed myself watching him. Of his 81 games for the club, I was in the stadium for 23 of them – frequently surrounded by empty spaces.

With one exception (a 20,826 crowd at home to Bahia), the only times I saw him watched by more than 20,000 people were local derbies – especially those against Flamengo, who supplied most of the supporters.

I was in London for the Olympics when he made his debut, to a packed stadium. A couple of weeks later when I returned there were just 3,550 there for the visit of Palmeiras. In all of his first team career Seedorf had never played in front of such tiny crowds.

He has seen, then, just how much Brazilian football is operating below its potential. And, in characteristic style, he was there at the forefront of the battle to improve things. He was a prime figure in the Bom Senso movement, and last December at Rio’s annual conference of coaches made the thoroughly sensible proposal that the year should start in February with the Brazilian Championship.

This is the voice of authority that the local scene has now lost, and which will be missed almost as much as his appearances on the pitch. It was an honour to have Clarence Seedorf among us for eighteen months, and I wish him success as he walks through the door in the wall and comes out the other side in Milan. But a large part of me wishes that door had not appeared for another six months.

 





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July 25, 2014
11:00Flamengo the latest Brazilian club to walk away from the race to sign Robinho
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09:00AC Milan C.E.O Adriano Galliani believes a deal for Robinho to exit is very far away
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20:24Real Madrid sign Brazilian left-back dubbed 'the new Roberto Carlos'
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19:59Chelsea midfielder Lucas Piazon joins Eintracht Frankfurt on season-long loan
13:39Brazil midfielder Lucas Leiva pleased to play first 90 minutes of season for Liverpool
13:30Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva discusses playing at Fenway Park
13:18Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: Coutinho is the brain of our team
12:47Arsenal bid £8 million for Hoffenheim attacker Roberto Firmino but Internazionale remain interested
12:20Amauri set to stay with Parma despite offers from Australia, Brazil and the Middle East
11:54Reports suggest Juventus looking to sign Verona’s Rômulo
11:28Argentine giants Boca Juniors linked with Atlético Mineiro’s Ronaldinho
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10:28World Cup winner Ricardinho appointed Ponte Preta head coach
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21:29Brazilian Football Confederation confirm new goalkeeper coach and assistant manager
21:19Flamengo reappoint Vanderlei Luxemburgo as Head Coach following Ney Franco sacking
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July 22, 2014
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23:16Former Internacional forward Ignacio Scocco set for Newell's Old Boys return
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July 23, 2014
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July 19, 2014
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April 06, 2014
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February 09, 2014
09:25Sambafoot Sunday: Where’s Wallyson? Botafogo find their new hero post-Seedorf
January 26, 2014
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13:36Sambafoot Sunday: Could Éverton Ribeiro Crack Europe?
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November 24, 2013
10:17Sambafoot Sunday: Palmeiras Promoted with Chapecoense in Tow
November 17, 2013
12:00Palmeiras secure Brasileirão Série B title with 3-0 win against Boa Esporte
November 12, 2013
08:42Relegation threatened Fluminense sack head coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo
November 10, 2013
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November 04, 2013
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October 17, 2013
21:43Hard work is paying off insists Bayern Munich defender Rafinha
13:17Rodrigo Lasmar: Ronaldinho on track to be fit for the Club World Cup
October 16, 2013
19:53Report: Tottenham Hotspur set to offer Paulinho extended deal
09:12Report: São Paulo could terminate Lúcio’s contract if injury concerns prevail
October 13, 2013
18:32Brasileirão: Grêmio slip up as Vitoria and Santos grab victories
14:49Vanderlei Luxemburgo: ‘Simulation part of football’
October 09, 2013
20:37Mineiro learn Club World Cup fate
October 06, 2013
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11:55Sambafoot Sunday: Cruzeiro cruising at the top of the Brasileirão
October 04, 2013
23:52Internacional manager Dunga sacked
September 14, 2013
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September 11, 2013
20:49Roberto Carlos: Anzhi could collapse
14:57Exeter City play down Brazil fears
September 07, 2013
14:12Atlético Madrid's Filipe Luis: Barca-Madrid dominance an injustice
September 06, 2013
19:04Santos announce tour of South East Asia
18:42São Paulo slump to defeat as Rogerio Ceni misses penalty
September 05, 2013
19:17Cruzeiro go four points clear after defeating Bahia
18:43Romário and Maradona fight against CONMEBOL corruption
September 03, 2013
21:29Marcelo Mattos says Botafogo will overcome difficulties
20:54Réver believes Atlético Mineiro can challenge for Brazilian title
September 02, 2013
23:21São Paulo to honour Brazil legend Leonidas da Silva
July 25, 2014
08:44Report: Palermo to target Sampdoria forward Éder
July 23, 2014
21:19Flamengo reappoint Vanderlei Luxemburgo as Head Coach following Ney Franco sacking
19:42Santos Vice-President Odílio Rodrigues Filho admits Robinho deal will be "a difficult operation"
15:17Report: Werder Bremen set to sign Internacional defender Cláudio Winck
13:43President Enrique Cerezo believes Atlético de Madrid can cope with Diego Costa and Filipe Luís sales and refutes Miranda rumours
10:07Report: Roma in negotiations with São Paulo to re-sign defender Rafael Tolói
July 22, 2014
23:27Report: Cruzeiro set to hold talks with Milan over Robinho
23:16Former Internacional forward Ignacio Scocco set for Newell's Old Boys return
23:11Agent confirms Robinho offers amid interest from Cruzeiro and Orlando City
14:36Al-Wasl team manager Majed Obaidallah confirms loan signing of Fábio Lima from Atlético Goianiense
12:44Report: Juventus and Roma could move for Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Douglas Costa following refusal to return to Ukraine
July 21, 2014
23:53Report: Barcelona to target São Paulo defender Rodrigo Caio
23:47La Liga newcomers Córdoba confirm the loan signing of forward Ryder Matos from Fiorentina
23:42Serie B newcomers Perugia sign veteran midfielder Rodrigo Taddei on a free transfer from Roma
23:352014 Brasileirão Round 11 summary: Internacional thump struggling Flamengo
July 19, 2014
23:01Report: Hellas Verona to target Cagliari forward Nenê
09:30Report: Chelsea set to move for Atlético de Madrid defender Miranda after completing deal for Filipe Luís
July 18, 2014
22:42Udinese complete the signing of midfielder Guilherme from Corinthians
22:34Robinho representative suggests temporary switch to Brazil is likely
22:31Representative confirms negotiations between Milan and Orlando City over Robinho
22:27Report: Livorno striker Paulinho set to join Al Arabi
17:542014 Brasileirão Round 10 summary: Newly promoted Sport Recife shock Botafogo
10:51Report: Genoa set to sign defender Edenílson on loan from Udinese
July 17, 2014
22:58Report: Sunderland forward Ignacio Scocco can't return to Newell's Old Boys until payment is settled with Internacional
22:53Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale bemoans lack of a second goalkeeper for Fluminense test
22:49Exeter City Manager Paul Tisdale expecting stern test against Fluminense
22:42Santos Head Coach Oswaldo de Oliveira hopeful for Robinho return
22:37Former Croatia international Eduardo signs for Flamengo
22:33New Flamengo signing Eduardo retires from international football
July 16, 2014
23:07Daniel Alves defends new Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez
23:02Daniel Alves wants Barcelona stay
22:57Report: Robinho to Santos before joining Kaka at Orlando City
22:52Livorno forward Paulinho considering a number of offers
July 14, 2014
23:52Hellas Verona confirm signing of Romulo from Fiorentina
23:12Cafu expects former Chelsea defender Ashley Cole to succeed at Roma
23:12Maicon wants a new deal at Roma
July 12, 2014
23:39Dodo hails Walter Mazzarri influence in Internazionale move
July 11, 2014
23:01Milan Vice President Adriano Galliani hails capture of Brazilian defender Alex
22:58Internazionale defender Juan Jesus talks Nemanja Vidic and Alexandre Pato
22:54Internazionale defender Juan Jesus thankful for fans support after long injury layoff
22:46Rodrigo Taddei open to Fiorentina switch
July 09, 2014
23:59Goalkeeper Diego Alves signs a new five year deal with Valencia
23:36Dodo thanks Roma fans after agreeing Internazionale move
July 07, 2014
22:16Report: Roma defender Dodo set to join Internazionale on loan
22:11Report: Alexandre Pato's wage demands are holding up potential Internazionale move
22:01Maicon confident he will win the Scudetto with Roma
July 02, 2014
22:21Kaka expects Robinho to join him in Major League Soccer
July 01, 2014
23:14Ethics committee confirms claims of match fixing against Cameroon will be investigated
23:13Angel Di Maria believes Argentina deserved to beat Switzerland
23:12Chelsea confirm signing of Atlético Madrid forward Diego Costa
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