The current coaches of Atletico Madrid and AC Milan respectively, Diego Simeone and Clarence Seedorf are living legends at both clubs and have charted very similar courses in the world of football.
The two come face to face again on Tuesday, when their sides meet in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie, with Los Colchoneros 1-0 up after the first leg at the San Siro.
Setting the scene for the match, FIFA.com compares the careers of two coaches currently making waves in the European game.
Old sparring partners
Though the San Siro meeting was the first time Simeone and Seedorf have locked horns as coaches, the duo know each other very well from their playing days, having squared off no fewer than eight times on the pitch.
First came a Madrid derby, with the Dutchman running out for Real Madrid and El Cholo lining up for Atletico. Then followed two UEFA Champions League matches, by which time Simeone had joined Inter Milan. The Argentinian’s next club was Lazio, for whom he would play another five times against Seedorf, who left the Bernabeu to join Inter before going on to become an AC Milan idol.
Simeone had the edge in those eight meetings, coming out on top four times and losing only twice, and in the process collecting two titles: a Coppa Italia and an Italian Super Cup.
The pair won a succession of silverware as players. In distinguishing himself with the three most important clubs of his career – Atletico, Inter and Lazio – Simeone picked up league winners’ medals in Spain and Italy and also lifted the Copa del Rey and Coppa Italia, Italian Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and the UEFA Cup.
Seedorf’s CV is even more impressive, featuring as it does no fewer than 22 major titles. They include five league championships in the Netherlands, Spain and Italy, two UEFA Super Cups, an Intercontinental Cup, a FIFA Club World Cup and four UEFA Champions Leagues, the Dutchman having the distinction of being the only player to have won the famous trophy with three different clubs: Ajax, Real Madrid and Milan.
All that is missing from Seedorf’s impressive list of achievements are international honours, an area in which Simeone is not lacking, having pocketed a silver medal with Argentina at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and won the FIFA Confederations Cup in 1992 and the Copa America on two occasions.
Both have forged reputations as consummate and highly committed professionals, driven to succeed and to face challenges head on. They continued this beyond the pitch when they did hang up their boots, coming to the rescue of famous clubs where they were idolised but which had fallen on hard times.
In Simeone’s case, the fallen giant in question was Racing de Avellaneda, where he wound down his playing career in 2006. Jumping from the pitch into the dugout, Simeone steered La Academia to safety after a rocky start.
He accepted a another major challenge five years later, taking up the reins at his beloved Atleti, where in the space of just over two years he won three titles, the prelude to their compelling bid to break the Real Madrid/Barcelona duopoly in La Liga this season.
Seedorf made Botafogo of Brazil the last port of call in his illustrious career as a player, hanging up his boots in January and making straight for Italy to take over at Milan. He faces a tough assignment, however. The Italian giants were languishing in 11th place in Serie A at the time, and it remains to be seen whether the Dutch star can bring back the good times at one of Europe’s greatest clubs.
Born to coach
Though Simeone has eight years of managerial experience behind him already and Seedorf a mere two months, the fact is that both were coaches in waiting during their playing days.
“He was a coach on the pitch and you could see it was in him,” said Kiko Narvaez, a former team-mate of El Cholo’s at Atletico Madrid. “He was always studying, watching and asking everyone about tactics.”
Seedorf was no different. In an interview he gave to FIFA.com a few months before taking on the Milan job, he spoke of the work he did in guiding the younger members of the Botafogo squad.
“When we play I usually tell them how to receive the ball,” he explained. “We have chats in the dressing room, when we’re in the gym, on away trips and after training. It’s an everyday thing. For me, the work never stops, we can always improve can’t we? You have to want to improve all the time.”