By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
While Inter’s form on the field has dipped significantly over the past four weeks, their current stand-off with star man Wesley Sneijder has been taking away much of the attention at Appiano Gentile. As disputes go, it all feels like a very avoidable scenario with few or no winners, but beyond that it also smacks of a right royal mess on the Nerazzurri’s part as they continue to ostracise a player they could have sold for around €35 million (£28m) just 15 months ago.
When Manchester United spent the entire summer of 2011 chasing the diminutive No. 10, it appeared only a matter of time before a deal would be done and the attacking midfielder would be heading for the north-west of England. However, the numbers just didn’t add up for any of the three parties. First, Inter wanted more than €35m, with United chief executive David Gill indicating the Red Devils could go up to that figure, but only paying an initial €28m (£23m), with the rest coming in bonuses.
But Inter refused to budge and United wavered, while the Premier League giants were also scared off by Sneijder’s €200,000-a-week (£160,000-a-week) wage demands as they were only willing to pay €170,000 (£140,000). After three full months of wrangling and no sign of a compromise, the whole deal collapsed.
Right now it feels like the Italians were the big losers in the transfer that never was. Sneijder has stayed on but has started only 20 of 52 league games since the beginning of last term, and has often had little effect in what has largely been a struggling side over that period. Meanwhile, United may still be searching for a midfielder to bolster their ranks having last season failed to make the knockout phase of the Champions League and lost their Premier League title, but this term they sit atop the English top flight and are safely into the last 16 in Europe.
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"Inter want to cut down wages and costs, and Sneijder earns €6 million per year until 2015. They offered the player the chance to sign a new contract until 2016 but with a €4m annual salary, and he turned it down and it's very unlikely he will eventually change his mind.
"He will likely leave Inter in January. He could go abroad, but Milan are known admirers too. President Massimo Moratti said a few days ago that 'a transfer could be a necessary option', and Inter could accept offers of around €15m.
"Sneijder's agent, Soren Lerby, will likely meet Inter management to talk about Wesley's position on Monday. He will seek a revised offer from the club but it's still unlikely they could find an agreement."Simone Gambino, Goal.com Italy
When sporting director Marco Branca announced recently that the 28-year-old will not return to the first team squad until he agrees to a deal which would see his €6m (£4.9m) salary reduced to a €4m (£3.25m) deal, albeit with a one-year extension built in, he scored a massive own goal on the club’s behalf. "We need to modify his current contract,” Branca told Sky Italia. “He and his entourage have to decide what they want to do about our proposal. Sneijder will not play until he makes a decision about his contract."
The Dutchman is perfectly within his rights to stand his ground over what Inter have been moved to deny is blackmail on their part. With two-and-a-half years still to run on his current deal, it seems a very overbearing move by the club’s hierarchy to demand that Sneijder make a decision on revising his deal so soon. If anything, it comes across as the Nerazzurri simply wanting to force the transfer of a player whose value has dropped markedly since the near-miss with Manchester United.
If Sneijder was to stick around and his performance levels continued to plummet, they could well see their current €15m (£12m) price tag laughed off by potential suitors in the not-too-distant future. They realise they made an error in not selling him two summers ago and are now panicking. They want to rake in what they can get while the player still has a sell-on value, and one look at his career – in which he has had single stand-out seasons with Ajax, Real Madrid and Inter before losing form – would have been enough to make the right move 18 months back.
This is not the first time the Nerazzurri find themselves in such situation. In the summer of 2010, they demanded €30m (£24m) from Real Madrid for right-back Maicon, then 29. When the Blancos refused to budge from their €26m (£21m) offer, the then European champions said "thanks, but no thanks" and two years of abysmal form followed for the Brazilian, leading to a €3.75m (£3m) sale to Manchester City earlier this year. Over €22m (£18m) in transfer fees and €8m (£6.5m) of wasted wages spelt a massive loss for the Nerazzurri, and they’re at it again with Sneijder.
But to wash their dirty linen in public as they are doing in this case is perhaps the biggest error on their part. By not playing Sneijder and announcing to the world that there is such a significant impasse between them and their player, they are simply begging for another club to come along and undercut them on whatever price tag they have in mind. Nobody in their right mind will pay full market price for a commodity whose current owners seemingly want to get off their hands sooner rather than later.
Inter have simply backed themselves into a corner from which there is no retreating and no moving forward. Sneijder is destined to depart and leave them out of pocket. Whether they pay for their folly on the pitch too depends largely on the form of the players who had taken the Beneamata to within a point of the summit without the No. 10 less than a month ago. But their amateurish approach to the business of protecting their assets could again leave them behind the eight ball when it comes to wheeling and dealing in the January window.