Three years ago, Chelsea target Wesley Sneijder led Inter to a terrific treble and not even Manchester United or Manchester City could prize him away from Milan. Last season though saw Sneijder left out in the cold before eventually being sold to Galatasaray. Here's the story behind the Dutchman's fall from favour at Inter...
Wesley Sneijder: How The Chelsea Target Went From Talisman To Inter’s Forgotten Man
Three years ago you could not have kept Wesley Sneijder off the pitch what with the little Dutch playmaker helping Inter to an historic treble of the Serie A title, Champions League and Italian Cup, and his country Holland to the final of the World Cup in South Africa. He became one of the most wanted men in European football with Manchester United and Manchester City leading the chase.
So impressive was his form that Inter awarded his efforts with a five-year contract worth €6m a year.
The future looked perfect for a 26-year-old who was only beginning to come into his prime and there had been little surprise at the mega-deal handed out by Inter president Massimo Moratti who down through the years had lavished such mind-blowing contracts on the likes of Ronaldo, Christian Vieri and Alvaro Recoba.
In his recently published autobiography Andy Van Der Meyde revealed that during his time in Milan the Nerazzurri owner would regularly hand out win bonuses of 50,000 euros and of course it was Moratti who made Jose Mourinho the highest paid coach in the world, on an estimated €9m over three years.
The Special One delivered the Holy Grail of the Champions League which enabled Moratti to emulate his father whose Grande Inter of the sixties had dominated the European scene.
Mission accomplished and Mourinho moved on as did another high earner Samuel Eto’o, but the good times continued to flow for those who remained as Sneijder, Douglas Maicon, Lucio and Julio Cesar were handed big, fat extensions and with that the bubble burst on the pitch.
Rafa Benitez arrived and lasted to Christmas, recent AC Milan coach Leonardo stepped in just to annoy Silvio Berlusconi and he was followed by Claudio Ranieri who could not stop the slide and neither could Giampiero Gasperini.
The writing was on the wall that the champagne days of over-excess were over when Moratti decided to comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play and went in-house to pluck Andrea Stramaccioni out of the obscurity of coaching the youth team on the back of his success in leading the under-18s to their own Champions League – the Next Generation trophy.
As deadly rivals Juventus returned to the summit of Serie A, so Inter headed in the opposite direction, failing to qualify for the Champions League and the big earners had to go: Maicon and Cesar headed to the Premier League in the summer but Sneijder would not budge despite the club’s best efforts to find a buyer.
The Dutchman’s wage demands and the €25m transfer fee seemed to put off the likes of Manchester United and then there was all that football he had played which looked to have taken the edge of his once dynamic style.
He had also got remarried and was constantly tweeting about how much he was in love but certainly Inter were not enamoured with fact that Wes was spending more time on the treatment table and even took off to LA where his missus was working, under the guise that he was receiving specialist treatment to a persistent hamstring problem.
Then there was that thorny issue of the contract – Inter had of course made a rod for their own backs when they offered Sneijder five years of untold riches but how could they get out of this predicament if the player would not leave?
What about trying to force him out by offering him a new deal where he would earn less but receive a further one-year extension with the option of another year on top of that.
That all important “less” would amount to 2m euros a year. Sacrifices would have to made was Inter’s line of argument, but they must have known that Sneijder and his advisers would not accept such a loss considering that they had not forced Moratti into the original contract in the first place.
From the Sneijder camp there was a straight “no” to the new deal so Inter marginalised the player, with Stramaccioni toeing the company line, maintaining that he had dropped the team’s most influential player for “technical” reasons.
Inter had hoped that they could have kept the matter quiet as they tried to persuade Sneijder to sign a new deal and dress it up as the player putting the team above personal gain but the press smelled something fishy and the club’s director of football Marco Branca was forced to admit that there were certain “issues” that needed to be resolved before Sneijder could play again.
It sounded more like one of those mafia movie “offers you cannot refuse” warnings and another meeting was arranged on Monday as the media had a field day on the madness of modern football but Sneijder and his agent Soren Lerby would not change their stance.
Moratti, who like all club owners, is used to getting his way haughtily dismissed the whole affair and left his 36-year-old coach to pick up the pieces by continuing to claim that it was Stramaccioni’s decision whether the player was in the team or not.
This argument would not have stood up in court and Inter were relieved to avoid proceedings when a transfer was agreed in January taking the Dutchman to Turkish side Galatasaray. Thankfully the transfer has solved problems for both parties with Inter avoiding the consequences of their financial over-commitment and Sneijder garnering interest from Chelsea after a good run for Gala- helping the club win the Turkish Super Lig and reach the Champions League quarters finals.
Whether Sneijder ends up at Chelsea with former manager Jose Mourinho or stays on at Galatasaray the Inter saga is a salient lesson to clubs on the pitfalls of offering mega-deals that they can then not make good on.