There are mixed reports coming from the media landscape this morning. Many outlets are reporting that Manchester United and Inter Milan have agreed a fee of £35m for the transfer of Wesley Sneijder, and that only a few final details are to be thrashed out in order to make the deal official. But as I type this, the Manchester Evening News are reporting that the deal is a long way from done, with Sir Alex Ferguson quoted as saying “”I keep reading about this, there’s absolutely nothing at all to that. First of all I don’t think Inter are prepared to sell him anyway.”
As they say, there is no smoke without fire. Maybe I’ve become cynical, but thanks to the other well documented transfer sagas’ that are playing out this summer, I find it hard to believe a word of what anyone in the footballing world says these days. Despite his quotes today, Sir Alex has been a longtime admirer of the Dutchman, and with Paul Scholes now retired and his midfield so painfully outplayed by Barcelona in last season’s champions league final, there’s no denying that Sneijder would be a great addition.
Taking a look back to United’s defeat to Barcelona, the key to the Catalan club’s success was down to their magnificent ball retention and passing accuracy. On the night Barcelona had 68% of the possession, and 89% of their passes reached their intended target. United’s pass success was just 79%, and despite United’s decent start, as the game unfolded it was clear only one team was going to win. The starting central midfield pairing of Giggs and Carrick just didn’t have the pace, guile or finesse needed to match a team like Barcelona. Qualities which Sneijder would bring in abundance.
From the quotes that came from the United camp in the aftermath of the game, it felt as if a scar had been left and no matter how well United perform domestically, catharsis will only be achieved through exacting revenge and regaining the Champions League trophy once more.
Which is why I think that Wesley Sneijder is exactly the man United need to start the healing process. In the spring and summer of 2010, it was Inter Milan led by Jose Mourinho who were able to topple Barcelona in the Champions League semi final and go on to win the trophy. There was much talk of the negative, defensive tactics employed by Mourinho during this campaign but dwelling on those takes a huge amount of credit away from the players. Especially Wesley Sneijder. During the last 16 match, away to Chelsea, Sneijder was simply unplayable. The usually stern Chelsea midfield just couldn’t get near him, and it was his delightful pass that set Samuel Eto’o through on goal to dispatch the winner.
In the quarter final 2nd leg away to CSKA Moscow, holding a 1-0 advantage from the first leg at the San Siro it was Sneijder’s early goal that gave them a comfortable passage to the last four. His influence got stronger and stronger as the competition went on, and again Sneijder opened the scoring in the first leg against Barcelona, which Inter went on to win 3-1. The rest as they say is History. In the final he was voted as the fans man of the match as Inter defeated Bayern Munich 2-0.
That Summer he was also instrumental in Holland’s world cup campaign, in which they were narrowly beaten in the final by Spain. The personal accolades soon followed, with Sneijder named in the World Cup all star team and UEFA’s club midfielder of the season.
Some might question Sneijder’s performance during the 2010-11 season, in which Inter failed to retain their league title and crashed out of the Champions league early on. The managerial transitions following Mourinho’s departure to Real Madrid clearly affected the whole squad. Rafa Benitez’s brief reign was disastrous. He was swiftly replaced by Leonardo, who himself has now subsequently left for Paris St Germain.
Maybe a new start is just what Sneijder needs to fulfill his full potential, and at 27 he should be at the peak of his abilities. Ferguson’s history of getting the best out of his players is well documented, and apart from a possible re-union with former manager Mourinho in Madrid (where Sneijder played from 2007-09), I can’t see a better home for him than Old Trafford. The Premier League would certainly be a better place.
If Sir Alex’s quotes from earlier today are accurate and he’s not interested in Sneijder, he surely needs his head examining. To me, £35m would be a bargain.