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Speculation over the possible departure of Massimiliano Allegri from AC Milan has gathered pace after the club failed to refute a report suggesting former midfielder Clarence Seedorf could take over as coach.
La Gazzetta dello Sport on Sunday claimed Seedorf was being lined up by club owner and president Silvio Berlusconi to take over from Allegri as of next season.
The Italian coach led Milan to the title in his first season in charge in 2011, a runner-up place last year and is now fighting for a coveted third-place finish this campaign.
Milan battled to a come-from-behind 4-2 win over Catania late Sunday to reclaim third place, which offers a Champions League spot via a qualifying round, from Fiorentina.
Afterwards, Milan chief executive Ardiano Galliani confirmed that Seedorf, the first player to win the Champions League four times with three different sides, could be one of several "former champions" from the club to be considered a replacement for Allegri.
"All the players who helped make Milan history enter the conclave the day Allegri leaves," said Galliani, borrowing the metaphor of cardinals electing the Pope.
"After that, who knows who will become the new Pope? We should let Allegri get on with his job. I won't confirm or deny anything."
Milan endured their worst start to a league campaign earlier this season before beginning a fightback shortly before the end of the year.
However the Rossoneri are 18 points behind imminent champions Juventus and seven adrift of Napoli in second.
Although Seedorf has no management experience and is still contracted to Brazilian club Botafogo, Galliani added: "The President's love for his former champions exists and that applies to Seedorf as well as the other players who took this club to the top of the world."
Following Sunday's report in Gazzetta fans brandished a banner at the San Siro supposedly proclaiming their support of the current coach. It read: "More respect for Allegri."
After the match Allegri, who recently has been linked with a move to Roma, said: "I appreciated the banner and the applause that the fans dedicated to me but there was no need. I know how much affection there is here.
"I'm the club coach and I'll be criticised and other names will always be linked to the job."
Galliani, meanwhile, said striker Stephan El Shaarawy would be going nowhere following reports that Manchester City had offered 35 million euros ($45.5 million, £29 million) for the player.
"It's clear that this player, who is 20 years old, is in the senior Italy squad and has scored a hatful of goals this season is one that is valuable for us in the transfer market," said Galliani.
"But we have absolutely no intention of letting him go."
Along with Mario Balotelli, added Galliani, "we have the two strikers who represent the future of the Italy side, so they are going nowhere."