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Seedorf tempted by English challenge

By Chris Bevan

Clarence Seedorf kisses the Champions League trophy after his success with AC Milan in 2007
Clarence Seedorf kisses the Champions League trophy after his success with AC Milan in 2007

There are not many things missing on Clarence Seedorf's footballing CV - but a stint in the Premier League is one of them.

However, as the Dutchman and his superstar AC Milan team-mates prepare for their intriguing Uefa Cup tie at Portsmouth on Thursday, Seedorf has revealed his appreciation of the English game could result in him returning to these shores for a longer stay in the near future.

"I am a man of adventure and new challenges so I am always open for discussion even if I am feeling very good at AC Milan," Seedorf, who is under contract at the San Siro until 2011, told BBC Sport.

"England has always been one of the most interesting leagues in the world but from a football point of view it has improved a lot. That is without even mentioning the stadiums, the atmosphere and the crowd. That has always been fantastic.

"Now, in the last years of my career, I am looking at it and of course it is attractive."

Seedorf, 32, has seen most things in a glittering career that has made him one of the most decorated players in European football history.

The only man to win the Champions League with three different sides - Ajax, Real Madrid and Milan (twice) - he has also picked up league titles with the same trio of clubs in the Netherlands, Spain and Italy.

I have played against Sol Campbell since youth level and he is quite some defender. There are some very good players there - Croucher (Peter Crouch), I have seen running around

Clarence Seedorf on Portsmouth

He is unlikely to have encountered a ground quite like Fratton Park before, or the reception that Kaka, Ronadinho and the rest of the Rossoneri are likely to receive.

But the Surinam-born midfielder remains focused on adding more silverware to his already impressive collection.

A fifth Champions League success remains his prime ambition before he hangs up his boots but this year offers a rare opportunity for success in the Uefa Cup - which, as Seedorf puts it, is "one trophy I haven't won yet".

Wins over Heerenveen and Braga in Group E mean Milan have already put one foot in the knockout stages but victory over Tony Adams' side this week would ensure their progress.

So what does Seedorf expect on the south coast? "I have heard the ground is old and about the noise during games but the San Siro has its own problems so we are not concerned about that," he added.

"I also know Portsmouth are a very good team and I have seen some of their individual players too.

"I have played against Sol Campbell since youth level and he is quite some defender. There are some very good players there - Croucher (Peter Crouch), I have seen running around - these are top players.

606: DEBATE
magicfrattonpark

"Unfortunately for them, their coach Harry Redknapp left them recently and that could be an advantage for us. We know we are not going to have an easy game but we are looking forward to it."

Seedorf has only played against four English clubs in meaningful matches - Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Ipswich - but he is not expecting Pompey's style of play to be much different, another reason why he would consider a move to the Premier League.

"English football has had a transformation in the last few years with all the foreign players playing there," he explained. "The traditional English style of play has become much more international.

"The mentality has stayed the same and the culture is always there but globalisation has become part of the football industry and you can see the influence of the foreign coaches too.

"Look at Rafa Benitez at Liverpool or Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. He has been there for a few years now and they don't play typical English football, neither do Manchester United."

There have been moves to bring Seedorf to the Premier League before - with Wenger and Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson the two main instigators.

Clarence Seedorf and William Gallas
Seedorf has come up against English opposition plenty of times in the Champions League

"I have had the opportunity to play in England at various times before but not in the past six years," said Seedorf. "I was contacted when I was at Sampdoria in 1996 by Arsenal and Manchester United - or at least the club was.

"United have been interested a few times since then - they and Arsenal definitely, other teams maybe, but nothing I knew directly about."

Whether Wenger is still interested in Seedorf is unknown but what is clear is that the Dutchman has the experience and charisma, not to mention the ability, to guide a young Gunners side through their current difficulties.

It is not that he would only consider joining a 'Big Four' club, more that the first relegation battle of his glittering career would not appeal.

"I look at projects and of course I am not the type of guy who would like to go to a place where we are going to struggle to survive," stated Seedorf.

"But I think it is important to find the right motivation in the project. That is why, when I went away from Inter, I joined AC Milan. That was for the project even if AC Milan at that point were restructuring their team.

Capello knows how to get the best out of players and I think you have started to see that with England already

Clarence Seedorf on England boss Fabio Capello

"There were no guarantees that they would be successful but that was exactly what I was looking for at that moment in time - to be able to build something where I could make a significant difference."

It is not only the domestic scene in England that has captured Seedorf's imagination.

Given that his own international career is, at best, on hold after he pulled out of the Netherlands' preliminary squad for the Euro 2008 finals following a disagreement with then boss Marco van Basten, Seedorf has had plenty of opportunity to follow England's progress under one of his former managers, Fabio Capello.

And Seedorf, who played under Capello at the Bernabeu in 1996/97, is not surprised that England have made a flying start to their World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign.

"Capello knows how to get the best out of players and I think you have started to see that with England already," said Seedorf.

"It is the result of focus and team spirit. If the English players are willing to work with each other and put their egos apart then I think they have to aspire to win the next World Cup.

"Team sport is all about people management, especially when you work with the best players.

"You don't have to teach them to play football, you just have to make sure they become a team; that they are willing to work together towards their goal. And you can leave that up to Capello."

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see also
Portsmouth v AC Milan
26 Nov 08 |  Europe
Milan magic can revitalise Beckham
17 Nov 08 |  Internationals
Tottenham sack Ramos for Redknapp
26 Oct 08 |  Tottenham
De Boer queries Dutch commitment
04 Jun 08 |  Netherlands
The players' view of Capello
14 Dec 07 |  Internationals
Seedorf facing fitness race
07 Jun 04 |  Holland
Seedorf threatens strike
04 Jun 04 |  Holland
Pele's list of the greatest
04 Mar 04 |  Football
Trouble Dutch
13 Nov 03 |  Internationals
Seedorf moves to AC Milan
31 May 02 |  Europe


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