Clarence Seedorf has already seen with his own eyes the club Deportivo can be. He’s already felt the buzz and shake of the Estadio Riazor, and he’s already lived one of the most remarkable nights in the history of the Los Turcos, after he and his AC Milan teammates experienced the unthinkable on a crazy Wednesday night in 2004, when Deportivo overturned a 4-1 aggregate deficit in north-west Spain to send the Italian club crashing out of the Champions League.
Skip forward nearly 15 years, and how times have changed. For Deportivo, it’s been almost two months since their fans last tasted victory; a hard-fought and narrow win at home to Leganés in early December last year.
Since then, the team have endured losses in five of their last seven games, leaked 24 goals and been desperately dependent on Romanian striker Florin Andone to convert chances for the team. Fans have also made their frustrations personal, after deciding to spray-paint areas of their city in protest of the underwhelming performances of Lucas Pérez, since his return from Arsenal.
At the top, The Riazor bubble finally burst when Cristobal Parralo was dismissed as manager. His successor – the 41-year-old Dutchman; cool, calm and classy as ever, despite a baptism of fire in the realities of football club management, where he’s endured unsuccessful spells in charge of his beloved Milan and Shenzhen FC in China.
Seedorf – who made over a hundred appearances for Real Madrid as a player – will make his La Liga managerial debut when Deportivo host Real Betis next Monday. The Galician club are currently positioned three points adrift of safety in the table.
One reason which could explain the decision to hire the Dutchman, is the hope that he will inject some much-needed creativity into a team short of attacking flair. Striker Andone has demonstrated an ability to score goals, and should Seedorf – a former midfielder – improve the service offered by those behind the strikers, Andone and fellow forward Adrián López will be presented with more opportunities in front of goal.
Deportivo president Tino Fernández has called for leadership, and a feather in the Seedorf cap will be that he commands respect. His experience as a player in Spanish football, and the fact that he’s considered to be one of the most technically adept players of his generation, will serve him well in the dressing room.
Where Seedorf could stumble is his lack of managerial experience, something which should be a pre-requisite before hiring a coach to lead a struggling group of players low on confidence. In his two previous stints in management, Seedorf lasted less than a year in each job combined.
Indeed, at Milan he was an example for how the decision to appoint talented ex-players as managers is a romantic idea, rather than a proven one, and as Gary Neville demonstrated at Valencia, an intelligent former footballer doesn’t always equate to a successful boss, especially when plunged into the pressure cooker of a team fighting to retain league status.
Most notably, however, Seedorf has nothing to show in the role. He has never led a team in Spain before, and although it seems he’s entrusted until the end of the current season, he will be without a bedding-in period as his side need to start gathering points soon if they are to avoid their fate.
Each of Deportivo’s next seven games come against teams outside the top six positions in the league table – an opportunity for Seedorf to make a name for himself and prove he has what it takes to handle the pressure of top-flight management.