As the World Cup finals rapidly approach, fallen star Wesley Sneijder appears in grave danger of missing out on the tournament with Dutch national team head coach Louis van Gaal recently expressing severe doubts over the Galatasaray midfielder’s once-expected inclusion within his squad selection. With such speculation surrounding Sneijder’s playing future at the highest level, what has gone so terribly wrong with the stylish playmaker’s career?
- By David Lee Wheatley
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29-year-old Sneijder was earmarked as a world superstar from a young age when breaking through into the Ajax first-team in 2002 and it was only a matter of time until a huge club came calling for his services. He duly moved on to giants Real Madrid in 2007, but struggled to show his true potential under the strain of abundant expectancy placed upon his shoulders to lead Real on to glory in all competitions. Despite being unable to find his best form, the Utrecht-born assist-maker still managed to claim a La Liga winners’ medal at the end of his first campaign in Spain. A less impressive second season saw Sneijder move on to Serie A when Inter took a punt on his outstanding natural talent, while truly believing he could reignite his stalling career under master tactician Jose Mourinho’s guidance.
The switch couldn’t have worked out better, as the unfancied Italians swept all before them to win an historic treble of the Champions’ League, Scudetto and Coppa Italia in 2010. At the heart of all the success achieved was Sneijder, with his cultured and creative passing abilities causing no end of problems for opponents right around Europe. The Dutchman went on to excel at the World Cup in South Africa that summer when leading Holland to the runners-up spot, while Wesley himself earned rave reviews for his incredible performance levels throughout the tournament. Many ‘Man of the Match’ accolades came his way game after game and eventually he made it into the FIFA All-Star Team line-up as confirmation of his prowess on the field of play.
Mourinho left for Real Madrid after those mighty heroics of the 2009-10 season with Inter and only a World Club Cup and one Coppa Italia trophy followed in the proceeding year. A few niggling injuries gave way to a contractual dispute between Sneijder and his club during the latter part of 2012, eventually coming to a head in January 2013 when it was announced by Turkish Super Lig side Galatasaray that a deal had been agreed to take the Netherlands international to Istanbul after they fought off the significant overtures of several bigger names from the English Premier League and elsewhere.
Sneijder hadn’t been getting a game due to the unseemly disagreement rumbling on with Internazionale for many, many weeks and therefore he decided to take the rather strange decision to join a team with little hope of replicating his memorable European Cup triumph of 2010. That troubled 2012-13 season can surely be pinpointed as the period in which the cultured midfield player apparantly lost at least some of his love for the game and with it his sparkling form.
True, Gala were victorious in their quest for the domestic league title within a short few months after Sneijder’s arrival, but something was missing. He no longer seemed to be the fulcrum of the side like he had been with Inter and many observers questioned his motives for moving to Istanbul in the outset, alongside burgeoning criticism of his apparent disinterest with testing himself at the top level of European football.
It was sad to witness the ineffectual showing of Sneijder in both legs of the recent Champions’ League last-16 tie with former suitors Chelsea, as the Londoners knocked the Turks out with ease. The usually impeccable passing and constant movement of the old Wesley was nowhere to be seen and his current employers went out of the competition with no more than a whimper at Stamford Bridge.
Now, van Gaal has threatened to drop the former captain from his hastening World Cup preparations altogether, alluding to his uninspiring form in Turkey by saying that one through-ball a game is simply not enough to guarantee a spot in the final selection. The outgoing Oranje boss has even gone as far as to suggest that Sneijder must transfer to a better league in order to get his footballing life back on track before it’s too late. Of course, any possible way out to those clubs strongly linked with the wayward maestro including Chelsea and Manchester United will have to wait until this summer and certainly won’t happen in time to help towards cementing a place at Brazil 2014.
Could it be that his very best days are actually behind him when he should in fact be enjoying his prime? Or, will Louis van Gaal’s berating of Sneijder finally provide the wake-up call he requires which will finally see him return to his previous lofty standards? He has much to prove in his desperate attempts to dispel the doubters and eventually make the cut for the greatest show on earth.