Q.

In the World Cup final, the Netherlands obviously played dirty and should have been reduced to nine men before halftime. Johan Cruyff commented: “This ugly, vulgar, hard, hermetic, hardly eye-catching, hardly football style, yes it served the Dutch to unsettle Spain. If with this they got satisfaction, fine, but they ended up losing. They were playing anti-football.” Were you embarrassed by your countrymen’s display in the final?

A.

Finals are always very difficult, and that final was a very physical game — from the Dutch point of view, too physical sometimes. I think the second half was much better. But it says a lot about the tension they had, trying get into the game.

If I look at the whole tournament, it was a disappointment from a technical point of view because a lot of coaches played a lot more defensive than offensive football.

I think Holland did a great job in being very concrete and risking not too much during the game. In the end, I think the best team won. I think at the end of 90 minutes, a draw was fair. But in the last 30 minutes, I think Spain had the best of play.

Q.

Mr. Seedorf, how surreal was your return to Amsterdam, where it all started for you? — Gregg D., Fredericksburg, Va.


A.

It was a very emotional few days. I met a lot of people who I didn’t see for a long time — before training, after training, before the game, after the game, even during the game! Playing in front of your old fans and having a fantastic end with the applause was amazing. I was pleased and thankful for the warmth they gave me in Amsterdam.

And at the end, I’m happy with the performance. We should have scored more goals for the chances we created, but getting a point in an away game is always important. I would say, Ajax started strong in the first 20 minutes of the game. After that, the game became more balanced.

Q.

Hi, Clarence. So much is said about youth development and how hard it is for young talent to come through in world football. Did it seem hard for yourself coming through the ranks at Ajax or does everything just fall into place for truly talented players such as yourself? – Franco, Wakefield, U.K.

A.

Of course, you need talent. But talent is a gift. Then you have to work with the talent and try to get the best out of it. It’s never easy to get all the way from the youth system of a club to the first team and eventually have a good career, and I’ve seen a lot of great talents fall out of the system.

It’s another reason I’m very involved with the global academy project I have, On Champions, where the focus is on this specific item, youth development, to try to make a change in that. Football has changed. The market has changed. The mentality has changed. And the people around these young players are very much focused on what they can get out of the player, more than looking at what’s best for the player.

I think that’s what’s driven me to start this project, and hopefully soon I will be able to expand it.

Q.

Clarence, hello from an Israeli living in Los Angeles. I once read that you are the owner of a third or fourth division Italian club. I’d love to find out whether or not you are still involved in that project, and what are your ambitions for the club? Do you hope to transition into a managerial or business role after your playing career is over? – Yair, Los Angeles

A.

My involvement with the club, A.C. Monza, will be stronger, of course, when I’m not playing anymore. For now I’m representing the owners and my company, On International, is managing the On Champions global academy project.

A.C. Monza is the first one and the center of the whole project because I’m here and because all of the professionals involved are nearby. We’re focusing on, besides the technical aspects, making sure that we develop champions in life, not only on the field but off the field. If you are champion in life, you will be a better football player, too. It’s important to fill those gaps that I feel around youth development in general.

I cannot be too specific with things because there’s competition out there! But I know the people involved are going to make a difference, not only in the field but also in management and how to run the club. It’s a company and it needs to be run like a company. It needs to be balanced in spending and revenue. That’s something we definitely focus on, to have very good financial management and human resource management, and to have a 360-degree, good-running football club.

So On International, who is doing the management, is my company. I’m involved more like an adviser and representing the owners.

Q.

Thanks for continuing to take questions in this forum as it remains very interesting. As to my question, despite the preseason player signings on both offense and defense, why does the defensive lineup appear relatively unsettled? Abate who I believe is basically a midfielder has been slotted at right back in the last few matches. New signings Sokratis and Yepes do not consistently feature. Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks and best of luck against Ajax. – Kevin Free, New York

A.

Actually, I think defense is not only the players on the last line. Defense is the whole team.

I think we have suffered the most in dead moments — free kicks and corner kicks that we were taking — and teams have scored on counterattacks. Other than that, they don’t shoot at goal. So that means we have a good defense. We are organized.

Of course, you have good players against you. Against Catania, for example, the guy scored an incredible goal from 35 meters! What can you do about that?

But we will grow. The results now are not what we deserve. But I think we will grow.

Q.

Milan has always prided itself as being a club that has treated its players like family. Do you still feel that to be the case? Especially with the retirement / departure of players like Maldini and Kaka (which shattered my illusions of Milan being a family club who never sold their stars for money). The new players signed this season, despite being big names, come across as more of the mercenary sort. – TJX, Malaysia

A.

Every team likes to call itself a family. The truth is that, looking at the facts, A.C. Milan has a team that has been together eight or nine years now — the core of the team, the heart of the team, is still together.

A lot of players at this club play until they’re 40 years old. That’s a good way to see that the mentality of the management, the philosophy of management, is definitely to keep the family together. It’s a very positive thing. In bad times, you can always see that Milan always comes out strong.

As for new players like Zlatan, he is a very easy guy. I think the better and the bigger the personality some of the time, the easier it is for them to adapt themselves. They know what it is to find position in a team. It’s harder sometimes for the younger players — like Papastathopoulos from Genoa, he will find a lot of new things. Ibra instead is used to playing for a big club. The only thing is, it’s a matter of time to get to know everyone. He knows the mechanisms. I’ve known Ibra for a long time. He’s a big personality. He’s outspoken. But he’s also very generous, a team player, and very happy, too.

Q.

Outside of Brazil, Robinho has not settled in a club successfully. How do you think he needs to/can develop to be successful with Milan? – John Dumbrille, Vancouver

A.

I know Robinho also from before. The thing is that if you train hard and you focus on the team and the coach, with that talent, you will be important for the team. That’s what he’s doing. He’s training hard. He’s there for the team. So he also will only improve after some of this turbulence gets put behind him. A club like A.C. Milan will definitely help to stabilize him and put him in balance.

Q.

Clarence, I have always wondered how it is decided between players as to who gets to take the free kicks? With Pirlo, Dinho, and yourself . . amongst others, I would imagine there is no lack of candidates. – CJM, Philadelphia

A.

This is a very interesting observation. You have a team that has four or five players that can take free kicks. Zlatan can do it. I can do it. Pirlo. Ronaldinho. It depends. If someone really feels good, he can go and take it. Generally it’s something that happens just looking at each other.

It’s also habit. You see who shoots better. When you have so many guys to choose from, it’s just respect for one another’s qualities. Pirlo generally takes the free kicks. Ronaldinho generally takes penalty kicks. I often take corner kicks. It just goes around.

In A.C. Milan we never have arguments. It happens in other teams, and it has happened in the past. But I have to say, we have not had that type of discussion.

Q.

I am a father of two very active young soccer players. There has been concern that head balls may cause minor brain damage and has a lasting effect on soccer players. As a professional soccer player in the most competitive leagues, what is your observation and comment on this concern? Thanks. – Edwin Jou, Irvine, Calif.

A.

Hitting the ball on your head, maybe if you do it a hundred times a day, it will be a problem. But it doesn’t happen so often in the game, and I don’t remember anyone ever having problems after their career because of hitting ball with his head.

Petr Cech, he’s a goalkeeper, and he got hit in the head by someone’s foot. If someone puts his foot into your head, then you have to worry! You have to be intelligent and know when you should stick your head in and when you need to step back.

At this level, I’ve never seen any problems with this.

Q.

Hello, Clarence, As a young player I invest in high quality cleats to get the most out of my playing ability. For the last couple of years I recognized that you wear Adidas Adipures in many of your matches. What is behind your choice of cleats and how do they help perfect your ability during your games? Also have you tried other cleats such as Nike Mercurial Vapors as I find them comfortable and extremely light. Good luck in this season’s efforts, I always enjoy watching you play along with the rest of the A.C. Milan team. – Kyle Baker, Unionville, Conn.

A.

It’s very, very important. It’s like going to the office without your computer. Your equipment is very important. I’m with Adidas now because I think they’re good. They have great gear. For years now, I’ve been playing with them.

It’s a fundamental thing to feel at one with your gear. That’s why for pro athletes, they are tailor-made.

The fact that this kid is thinking about this means he’s already a professional at a young age.