Wesley Sneijder hasn't played for Inter Milan since September, and the Dutch maestro is in need of a new club this transfer window.
"Clearly it’s best for everyone concerned that in January I am transferred," Sneijder said at a Monday press conference. "If that doesn't happen then I will stay. I have a contract with Inter until 2015."
That contract, shelling out a Serie A-high 6 million euros a year, is the brunt of the problem. Inter nearly doubled the Dutch midfielder's wages (from 3.5 million euros) in 2010 after Sneijder helped orchestrate the treble under Jose Mourinho and scored five goals as the Netherlands advanced to the World Cup final.
Instead of rewarding a key component of the squad, the deal instead anchored Inter down with a tactically inflexible and injury prone player.
Sneijder is clearly gifted. His ability to link an athletic, but agricultural, midfield with an erstwhile isolated yet potent attack completed Mourinho's Inter. He quickly became the most important piece, with the rest of the formation designed around him in a narrow 4-3-1-2.
Since Mourinho's departure, however, Sneijder has failed to fit into the tactical systems of replacement coaches. Rafael Benitez, Leonardo, Gian Piero Gasperini and Claudio Ranieri all attempted and failed to supply Sneijder adequate midfield support without becoming one-dimensional.
Andrea Stramaccioni has best used Sneijder of any of the Inter coaches, but the young boss tends to shift formations frequently enough so that the team doesn't rely on the 28-year-old's presence. Good thing, too: Since 2010, Sneijder has missed more than half of Inter's games through injury.
He last limped out of a game on Sept. 26 against Chievo with a muscle tear. He flew to Los Angeles for treatment, and tweeted about it. Upon his return, club directors pulled him aside. One part of the talk involved reiterating the club's social media policy.
"My husband cannot write on Twitter," his wife, Yolanthe, tweeted on Nov. 9. "It's the club's decision. Strange, because only Wes is not allowed to tweet. I am sad because he always gives his all for the team."
The other, much more crucial part of the talk involved Sneijder's contract. Inter wants to pay him the same amount, but extend his current deal from 2015 to 2017. In essence, he would sign a contract extension but accept a 33 percent pay cut, down to 4 million euros a year.
In addition, Inter made it clear that Sneijder won't play until he signs.
"The situation with Sneijder – who is a part of our history and a player for whom we all wish the best – is that we have been talking for some time about an eventual, necessary change to his contract," technical director Marco Branca previously told reporters. "We want to give the player and his staff all the time they need to assess the terms of our proposal.
"And so the technical decision of our club is to not use the player at this time. It has been taken so as to achieve the maximum calm and clarity. Among other things this will allow our manager to give more room to our other players."
Inter needs Sneijder to leave this month not only to save money but because it is on shaky legal ground. Back in 2010, Inter picked up Goran Pandev on a free transfer after the forward successfully sued Lazio for freezing him out over a contract dispute. The longer this drags out, the worse for both parties. Inter already moved on the hefty contracts of Lucio, Maicon and Julio Cesar last summer. Samuel Eto'o departed a year prior.
Sneijder will likely have to accept a step down – either in salary or in level of competition. Reports from Britain suggest that several Premier League clubs have already balked at his wage demands. Because of his tactical limitations, Tottenham would present one of the more snug fits. However, "There is nothing, absolutely nothing true about that," his agent told Dutch paper Algemeen Dagblad about the alleged Spurs interest.
And Liverpool? "Again, no truth," Sneijder said Monday.
Other links include joining Eto'o in Russia or across town to Milan should Alexandre Pato and Robinho make their ways to Brazil.
Sneijder has less than a month to sort through the potential destinations, pick one and move on out.
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