Clarence Seedorf and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will take on the club credited with shaping their international stardom Tuesday when AC Milan plays Ajax in a match between two teams that between them have won Europe’s top club trophy 11 times.
Article continues below ...
Seedorf, who has won the Champions League with Ajax, Real Madrid and Milan, started his career in Amsterdam aged 16 in 1992. Ibrahimovic made his debut in the tournament for Ajax in 2002.
Four-time European champion Ajax opened its Champions League campaign this season with a 2-0 loss at Real Madrid, while Milan – which has won Europe’s top club title seven times, had a 2-0 win over Auxerre in Group G.
Ibrahimovic scored 35 goals in three seasons at Ajax before his prolific scoring ability attracted the attention of Juventus. The Sweden striker says he is looking forward to his return to Amsterdam Arena.
"I became a star during my days at Ajax," Ibrahimovic told Voetbal International. "I still have friends in Amsterdam, but this time I am not coming for fun but for three points."
Seedorf could face his friend Andre Ooijer, who signed for Ajax from PSV Eindhoven during the offseason. Ooijer and Seedorf both featured for Ajax’s youth team.
"For me, it is really special at this stage of my career to be able to go back to Ajax again," said Seedorf, who last season turned down coach Martin Jol’s offer to return to Ajax. "I hope the feelings are mutual."
Ibrahimovic scored Milan’s lone goal in the 1-0 win against Genoa in Serie A on Saturday that snapped a three-match winless run.
"We will go to Amsterdam with renewed determination," Milan left back Luca Antonini said. "It was fundamental that we got the three points (against Genoa). Above all, from a psychological point of view, with the match against Ajax coming up."
Ajax, which was held to a 2-2 draw at FC Twente on Saturday, hopes the return of captain Luis Suarez from suspension will provide extra attacking power.
"They will have learned from their mistakes against Madrid," Seedorf said. "I am really curious to see how they will play against us. I hope that it will be a great match."
Ajax will also be out to prove a point after club great Johan Cruyff hit out against the team’s current direction in his newspaper column last week.
"For the good of the club, they should all go," Cruyff wrote in De Telegraaf, launching a salvo against club director Rik van den Boog for buying strikers with "identical qualities" and complaining that "there are no wingers."
Ajax sold Denmark winger Dennis Rommedahl to Olympiakos and bought forward Mounir El Hamdaoui from AZ Alkmaar during the offseason. Egypt striker Mido also signed a one-year contract with Ajax in August.
Ajax and Milan have previously met on 10 occasions, including Ajax’s win in the 1995 final and Milan’s victory in the 1969 European Cup final.