The Dutchman has had a tremendous year...
Note: The views expressed below are of the author alone and not of Goal.com.
As we grew up, we heard the names of Maradona, Beckenbauer, Cruyff and Pele being the most famous footballers of all time. Then came Ronaldo (Luis), Zidane and Figo in the late 1990's and early 2000's. And today it's about Kaka, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. But during the course of the 2009-10 season, there has been a new name joining the ranks, and he is Wesley Benjamin Sneijder.
Wesley Benjamin Sneijder
Wesley Sneijder is an attacking midfielder who started his career with the Ajax youth system. He transferred to Real Madrid during the 2007-08 season. He spent two seasons at Real before he was sold to Inter for a fee of €15 million following the arrivals of Kaka, Xabi Alonso and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Inter Milan - The Treble
In his very first season with the Italian giants, he did the unthinkable. Along with then Inter coach Jose Mourinho, now the head coach at Real Madrid, he helped the Nerazzurri win the treble - the Scudetto, the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Champions League - all in the 2009-10 season.
Jose Mourinho and Sneijder
Sneijder has been the leader of the attack pack at Inter, which comprises of the likes of Samuel Eto'o, Diego Milito, Goran Pandev and Dejan Stankovic. His wide range of passing skills, both long and short, was the key Jose Mourinho used to unlock the opposition defences. His robust style of game play and easy adaptability allowed him to quickly settle into the Serie A game style.
Though he did not score many goals for Inter during his debut Serie A season, which ended in May 2010, he provided key assists and has been instrumental in the build-ups from the midfield. However, the goals he has scored have all been decisive ones.
The 26 year old made his Serie A debut against cross town rivals AC Milan, and immediately made his mark on the team. He helped his team beat Milan 4-0 in the traditional derby.
He scored the winning goal, his first for Inter, against Udinese in a hard fought 2-1 win in October 2009. He also scored the goal which won Inter their match against Catania later that month as Inter won 2-1. In January 2010, he scored two thunderous free kicks against Siena. Inter went on to win the match 4-3. During the Round of 16 clash in the Coppa Italia against Livorno, he scored the only goal against of the match. This helped Inter through to the Quarter Finals of the same.
In the Champions’ League group stages, he scored the decisive goal in Inter's 2-1 win over Dynamo Kiev in the Champion's League, his first goal for Inter in the Champions League. The Oranje midfielder also setup Samuel Eto'o's goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the second leg of the Round of 16 clash in the Champions League. This gave Inter the much needed crucial away goal. Inter had taken a 2-1 lead in the initial leg at the San Siro, went on to win the tie 3-1.
During the second leg of the Quarter-Finals of UEFA's blue ribbon tournament, he scored against CSKA Moscow to make it 2-0 on aggregate for Inter. Inter led 1-0 from the tie first leg tie at Moscow.
The Semi-Finals arrived. Inter drew Barcelona to set up a mouth watering clash. Barcelona took the lead due to a defensive mistake by the Nerazzurri, but Sneijder led his pack and went on to score Inter's equalising goal against the Blaugrana during the first leg. Inter eventually went on to win the first leg 3-1, and hence, winning the tie 3-2 on aggregate over both legs, helping Inter to secure a place in the finals.
Sneijder With The Champions League Trophy
Then came 22 May 2010, his return to the Santiago Bernebeu, from where he was controversially sold by Real Madrid. He setup Diego Milito's first of two goals that night in Inter's 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League Final, showing Real Madrid, at their home ground what they missed in a season that ended without any silverware.
Netherlands And Pre-World Cup - A 100% qualifying record
The World Cup 2010 qualification campaign grouped the Netherlands with Norway, Scotland, Macedonia and Iceland.
The Oranje became the first team to qualify for the World Cup from the UEFA Qualification Zone with a 100% track record. They won all 8 out of their 8 group games.
Sneijder did not score any goals, but he was a key leader of the Oranje midfield pack, which led the Dutch attack alongside Dirk Kuyt, Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie and Rafael Van Der Vaart.
After completing a successful season with Inter, he returned to the Dutch training camp ahead of the pre-World Cup friendlies and World Cup preparations. Sneijder continued from where he left off for Inter. He was quickly into the thick of things and found his shooting boots as well. He started scoring goals for the Oranje even before the World Cup began. He scored in two of the three pre-World Cup warm up matches for the Netherlands, grabbing one goal a piece against Ghana and Hungary.
Netherlands And The World Cup - In the Semi Finals
The Dutch maestro was on song again during the group stages. He scored his team's second goal against Slovakia, which eventually proved to be the match winner. He scored the winning goal in his team's 1-0 win over Japan which ensured that Netherlands became the first team to be guaranteed a place in the knock-out stages of the tournament with a game to spare.
In the round of 16 tie against Slovakia, Sneijder grabbed the winning goal in the 84th minute of the game to ensure his team a place in the Quarter-Finals, and setup a mouth watering tie against Brazil.
Even in the Quarter-Finals against Brazil, he scored both goals, one from a cross which glanced in off Felipe Melo's head**, and then, the winner off a header, from a corner which Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben slotted in from the six-yard box. Both goals were special because it helped them beat the World No. 1 team and tournament favourites Brazil in the World Cup after a gap of 36 years. (**The first goal in NED 2-1 BRA was originally credited to Brazil's Felipe Melo as an own goal. On Saturday 3 July the FIFA Technical Study group instead awarded it to Dutch player Wesley Sneijder - (C) Goal.com)
Sneijder Celebrates His Header Against Brazil
Then came the Semi-Finals against Uruguay and the story was no different. Sneijder was on song again. He grabbed his 5th goal of the World Cup campaign, which was Netherlands' 2nd in their 3-2 win over Uruguay. This helped the Oranje ensure a guaranteed runners' up spot, equalling their best World Cup finish ever. (Just for record, the Netherlands reached the World Cup finals of both the 1974 and 1978 editions, but ended as runners' up)
The Netherlands have been undefeated since September 2008 (including not a single defeat or draw at this year's World Cup), and Sneijder has been pretty instrumental in keeping the unbeaten record intact. He has now scored 7 goals (5 in World Cup + 2 in pre-World Cup friendlies) in 9 games so far for the Oranje.
The Brazil-Netherlands game was also about Kaka vs. Sneijder. Sneijder was sold from Real Madrid because they had bought in Kaka to usher in the second era of the Galacticos. Though Kaka played his best game of the tournament yet, Sneijder went one up in a straight head-to-head, orchestrating a win and scoring as well.
Interestingly, Brazilian defenders Lucio and Maicon, and goalkeeper Juilo Cesar are Sneijder's teammates at Inter Milan. After playing one entire season with the Dutch Star, you could be sure that they would know Sneijder's style of play and weaknesses. But Sneijder rose to the challenge and outfoxed them to give Netherlands their first victory over the Salaceo after 36 years. The Oranje last beat the Samba boys in the 1974 World Cup.
So, after performances for both his club and country in what has been a terrific 2009-10 season, Sneijder deserves a place in the books alongside Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, etc. Now with a place in the World Cup finals with the Holland squad, a win would be the perfect icing on the cake for Sneijder, a truly remarkable ending to what has been a 'fairytale' year.
In fact, he truly deserves the 'World Player of the Year' after having the best season of his entire career, if not then at least a nomination and then we will see what the jury thinks of his candidature!