2 July 2010, Wesley Sneijder mounted an iconic comeback to eliminate South American giants Brazil and guide Holland into the World Cup semi-final.
His heroics in Port Elizabeth capped off an illustrious year of achievements, which began with an unprecedented continental treble with Internazionale and concluded with guiding his country into the 2010 World Cup final.
Sneijder was being dubbed as one of the greatest midfielders on the planet and his reputation skyrocketed as he continued to dazzle for Inter and The Oranje. He’d gradually progressed into the realms of prosperity by biding his time with Dutch giants Ajax until a colossal move to Real Madrid materialized in 2007.
The Dutchman instantaneously established himself in the Spanish capital with nine goals during his debut season and he capped off a sensational year by receiving a number of accolades for his performances in Euro 2008.
However, Sneijder was unable to consolidate his growing reputation during his second campaign at Real Madrid and he became flustered by the scrutinizing pressure. Internazionale offered an escape route ahead of the 2009/10 season and Sneijder relaunched his career in Italy.
Reaching the Pinnacle
He was the engine in the heart of midfield for Inter Milan and finished the 2009/10 season with more assists than any other player in the UEFA Champions League. Internazionale sealed both the Italian Serie A title and Coppa Italia before heading into an intense battle with Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League final.
Both teams were seeking a continental treble with Bayern Munich also winning the domestic double in Germany. But it was the Italians who emerged victorious in the Santiago Bernabeu with a brace from Argentinian hero Diego Milito.
Sneijder headed into the 2010 World Cup with his reputation revived and he was instrumental for the Dutch National Team during their journey to the final. He opened his account for the tournament during the second fixture in the group stage with the only goal against Japan and guaranteed their passage into the quarter-final with the decisive goal against Slovakia in the Round of 16.
But his finest hour was undoubtedly during the quarter-final tie against Brazil. The 2002 World Cup champions surged into an early lead via Real Madrid starlet Robinho inside 10 minutes and the young Brazilian was running the show during an entertaining the first half.
The tide turned in favour of the Dutch during the second half and Sneijder was at the forefront of the action. His delivery into the penalty area was fortuitously diverted beyond the haplessly emerging Julio Cesar by Felipe Melo to level the score shortly after the restart and Sneijder completed the comeback with a crisp header into the far top corner.
Although the Dutch abandoned their aesthetically beautiful brand of football for a more brutal physical style, Sneijder was awarded the World Cup Silver Ball and included in the team of the tournament. He collected a number of awards for his performances at Internazionale too and was also voted in the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Team of the Year and ESM Team of the Year.
Falling from Cloud Nine
Internazionale failed to continue their rise amongst the European elite following the departure of Jose Mourinho. They were eliminated by German opponents FC Schalke 04 in the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League and also lost to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.
It was still another positive season for Sneijder. Despite struggling in both the Champions League and UEFA Super Cup, Internazionale emerged victorious to win the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup. Injuries contributed to his regression in Italy and a disagreement during contract renewal talks filed the final nail in the coffin.
Sneijder surprisingly joined Turkish outfit Galatasaray rather than the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United. It was deemed an unambitious move from the Dutchman with a number of media outlets suggesting that the transfer was fuelled by money.
He was also unable to replicate his heroics for the Dutch National Team during the European Championships in 2012. Holland were demoralizingly eliminated in the group stage, following defeats against Denmark, Germany and Portugal respectively.
Is it really a valid argument to suggest Sneijder failed to fulfil his potential? I believe it is, especially considering his achievements with Internazionale and Holland in the early stages of his career. Maybe he lacked the desire to continue to compete at the highest level or was satisfied with what he’d achieved in his career.
Sneijder left Galatasaray at the beginning of the 2017/18 season, after winning 2 Turkish Super Lig titles and scoring 46 goals in 175 appearances. He finished his international career strongly by finishing third-place in the 2014 World Cup and he also holds the record for the most caps for Holland, but I can’t help but think about what could’ve been.
His solitary season with OGC Nice failed to kick-start a revival in form and he’s now plying his trade in Qatar for Al-Gharafa. In some respects, Sneijder enjoyed an incredible career, but he could’ve left an immortal legacy in his wake!
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