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Goal.com's Peter Staunton lauds the brilliance of the Dutch master...

Against Chelsea, Wesley Sneijder, the Inter midfield player, showed how to punch in a match-winning performance without scoring a goal. The Dutchman was an exact fit in Jose Mourinho's brash system at Stamford Bridge as the Italian champions ousted the Premier League side, 1-0.

The tactic relied heavily on passes forward from the midfield area to a trio of hungry and honest forwards. In that respect, Sneijder ticked the box. The system also required dynamism, controlled aggression and ability on the ball from the man ahead of two holding midfielders. Check, check and check.

The Portuguese's former team lacked the sort of incision that Sneijder provided for the visitors. Chelsea seemed to be afflicted with too many ball carriers and not enough passers. Frank Lampard never exerted the sort of influence of which he is capable; Florent Malouda ran manfully with only a glimmer of a final ball; Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba, meanwhile, were well and truly bullied by the Bash Brothers, Walter Samuel and Lucio, and fed only on scraps.

The 25-year-old's display in blue and white was redolent of another Mourinho favourite, Deco, during the playmaker's time at a very successful Porto team. Just as Deco became a lynchpin for Jose's directions in Europe in 2004, Sneijder looks to be adopting a similar burden of responsibility for 2010's Inter outfit, however average his Serie A performances have been of late.


Endeavours on the continental scene come to define a player, think Kaka 2007 or Zidane 2002, and having found his place right at the very heart of the side, much like he does for the national team, this could be Wesley Sneijder's true breakout season.

In contrast, the team he left as an outcast last summer, Real Madrid, are licking their wounds after stumbling at the Groundhog Day stage of the Champions League yet again. Excuses have been offered, from a paucity in defence, a lack of balance through the midfield to out-of-form strikers, for los Blancos' failings in Europe's top competition.

Sneijder and fellow Dutchie, Arjen Robben of Bayern Munich, may afford themselves a wry grin. For the two Oranje internationals have negotiated a path to the quarter-finals instead of crashing out with the over-spending, under-achieving behemoth from Spain's capital. To add further spit to Madrid's water, los Merengues are actively missing the duo they dispensed with as their new team creaks into shape.

Robben has flourished into one of the world's foremost attackers since arriving in Bavaria, eclipsing Franck Ribery, the man Madrid have earmarked for next summer. While Manuel Pellegrini swaps Marcelo for Esteban Granero, and then swaps them back again, he must really wish that Robben was available to him.

Likewise, as the Chilean watches the shadow of Kaka slow down Madrid's attacking play, he must look to the skies and ask for Sneijder. While Kaka arrived in a ticker-tape parade in front of a packed Bernabeu for a grandiose sum of money, Sneijder quietly made his exit silently and decided to plump for Italy's Scudetto holders.

So far so good for the Ajax graduate; Inter, however slenderly, are still the flagship team in Serie A while the 1964 and 1965 European champions are threatening to win it again. It proves that leaving Real Madrid does not always have to be a step-down and it could prove the making of Wesley Sneijder. His injury record may not stand up to close scrutiny but in this case, it looks like the free-spending Neo Galacticos were sold the dud.

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