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The Dutchman is experiencing a slump with the struggling Italian side, but it is an issue the midfielder also had during his time with the Spanish giants

By Kris Voakes, Ben Hayward and Stefan Coerts

Their defence is old and creaky, the midfield short on energy and drive, and the front line lacks cohesion. There are a number of reasons why Inter find themselves in the bottom four places of Serie A right now, but the various issues have helped to take attention away from the fact that 2011-12 has not been a happy time so far for Wesley Sneijder.

He was the star of the show two seasons ago, providing the inspiration from the trequartista position as Inter marched to a magnificent treble. He crowned a superb season by scoring five goals for the Netherlands at the World Cup finals, tallying up displays domestically and internationally like nobody else. It came as a huge shock to many that he had been such a vital figure for club and country, and it should have been enough for him to be awarded the Ballon d’Or. That it wasn’t was nothing short of a joke.

Since then Sneijder has really gone through the mill. A heavy workload, due in part to his summer activities in South Africa, made the beginning of last term tough for the No.10. By autumn he looked a shadow of himself in an Inter side who were trying to pass the ball more, but were lacking the necessary vibrancy. And nobody summed that up more than Sneijder himself.

It soon emerged that he was suffering with anemia, his body proving ill-equipped to cope with the demands he had asked of it. And when he returned from his enforced lay-off, the cutting edge that had been in evidence as the Nerazzurri had collected three trophies the year before was noticeable by its absence. Other than a fantastic display in the second-leg victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League in March, Sneijder never once drove his side on in the same fashion as in the previous term.


Season Club Games
Ajax 23 5
Ajax 38
Real Madrid
37 9
Real Madrid
41 8
10 2

While in 2009-10 he failed to find the net in the league in the entire second half of the season, his influence was crucial. In 2010-11, Inter were spending less time playing through him and more time playing around him. This season, he has become an even more peripheral figure as the constant chopping and changing of coaches and systems has taken its toll on Sneijder perhaps more than any other Inter player. As he returns from international duty against Cagliari this evening, Claudio Ranieri will be looking to him to show that his recent injury-enforced break has helped him to recharge the batteries.

At the beginning of this term, he has looked ready for something new. His head low, his shoulders slumped, Sneijder is not a happy man. More than ever before in the blue and black shirt, he appears ill at ease with what is happening around him, as well as what is happening to him. Try as he might, nothing is really coming off, and he is only becoming more frustrated with the entire situation at San Siro. You can see it in his body language.

But this is not the first time that injury and circumstance have compromised his football. The same happened in his sophomore year at Real Madrid. After putting in a magnificent final season for Ajax in 2006-07, earning a €27 million switch to Spain, he enjoyed an explosive first 12 months at the Bernabeu, in which he hit the ground running with a derby winner against Atletico and a double in a 5-0 away win against Villarreal on the way to nine goals and nine assists in La Liga. His second term was notable for its issues.

"This is not the first time that injury and circumstance have compromised his football. The same happened in his sophomore year at Real Madrid"
Things started to go wrong in early August, when he was stretchered off with a suspected cruciate ligament injury and although the problem was less serious than originally feared, he was sidelined for the start of the new campaign. When he returned, he found a Madrid side struggling to keep pace with Pep Guardiola's brilliant Barcelona, a coach under pressure and a president in trouble, too. Bernd Schuster eventually made way after claiming Real could not possibly beat Barca, Ramon Calderon resigned following a vote-rigging scandal and new coach Juande Ramos was left to pick up the pieces.

He did. Madrid went on an extraordinary 15-match winning run in La Liga and Sneijder was part of that, but his performances had dipped and the midfielder was helpless as his side went down 5-0 on aggregate to Liverpool in the Champions League. In total, just two goals and two assists told a story and another injury saw Sneijder miss the end of the season - as well as the 6-2 defeat at home to Barca.

When he was sold that summer to Inter, it was against his will. But one can’t help but feel that any move for Sneijder this January would come with his stamp of approval. The more Inter have struggled, the further his head has dropped. At Ajax, his response to being the last remaining superstar was to put in a barnstorming final effort in order to get a big move. Now the Nerazzurri faithful must hope that he produces a similar stint for their side, whatever the motivation.