By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
Once upon a time, there was a world class Dutch footballer with the world at his feet. Adored by his club’s supporters, loved by his bosses, respected by just about every fan of every team on the planet, and pursued by some of the game’s greatest superpowers, his fairytale career looked set to be heading for a Cinderella ending.
But Wesley Sneijder is now left having to contemplate his very own Humpty Dumpty moment. Just 18 months on from a summer which saw him chased mercilessly by then-Premier League champions Manchester United, the Dutchman is left staring down the barrel of a career shattered by a spectacular drop in form, Inter’s divisive frugality, and his falling stock in a transfer market which no longer regards him as one of football’s greatest assets.
It was only really the finer details that curtailed United’s attempts to add him to their squad in 2011, with Sneijder’s €200,000-a-week wage demands and Inter’s €35 million price tag combining to leave Sir Alex Ferguson’s outfit backpedalling away from talks. A slight compromise on cash from either the player or his owners would likely have pushed the deal through, with the Red Devils so eager to sign Sneijder that they spent the whole summer negotiating for him and not once turned their attentions elsewhere.
A year and a half on, Sneijder is seemingly the most unwanted commodity on the January transfer market, with interest in his signature from top clubs having died down to almost non-existent level. While his wage demands remain high, Inter’s refusal to pick him until such time as he agrees a new contract which would cut his salary by 33 per cent has seen him ostracised from football for the past few months. With his form never having re-emerged at the level to which he was playing in 2010, when he arguably should have been selected as Ballon d’Or winner ahead of Lionel Messi after leading Inter to a historic treble and scoring five goals at the World Cup for Oranje, his stock has plummeted to the point that he is fast running out of options.
WESLEY SNEIJDER | ALL-TIME INTER STATS
Only Anzhi Makhachkala and Galatasaray remain as serious contenders, with the likes of Queens Park Rangers and Tottenham Hotspur having recently distanced themselves from speculation linking the former Real Madrid man to their clubs. The Manchester Uniteds of the world are now no longer to be seen in the increasingly murky transfer picture.
Unfortunately for Anzhi, there are several reasons why Sneijder may not want to venture to Russia, despite his eagerness to free himself from his current shackles at Inter, as Goal.com Netherlands’ Jelmer van der Dussen explains.
"His wife, Yolanthe Cabau, could be a reason why he would want to stay in Milan as she has her own flourishing career there. On the other hand, she is trying to build a future in Hollywood as well, so it looks like she will be travelling all the time anyway.
"Her recent quotes to RTL Boulevard suggested that much of Sneijder’s decision would be based on their hopes for building a family. So you can probably forget about a move to any Russian club that is interested, and his probable preference is to stay in Milan and play for AC Milan, or go to England or anywhere else where the standard of living is high and the pay is good."
The scenario has become more complicated by the quotes offered by Galatasaray president Unal Aysal claiming to have spoken with Inter counterpart Massimo Moratti about Sneijder’s availability on Tuesday.
"The Wesley Sneijder topic was also on table," Aysal told GSTV. "I can say we made positive progress on the prospect of signing Sneijder. I suppose it will be clear in a few days. We will negotiate the terms and hopefully get a discount on Sneijder's fee. If they will agree to our offer financially then this move will be finalised."
|"We have to emigrate in January. There's a lot going on, this is about our future, about Wes, his soccer, and about the place where we might have our babies"
- Yolanthe Cabau to RTL Boulevard
Cabau seemed to confirm that a move to Turkey is a possibility later in the day, tweeting: "Istanbul is definitely nice! Have been there many times, love Turkey! But what will happen, I do not know … I can only say that Wes still loves Inter as much as he did before."
Goal.com Italy’s Sergio Chesi believes there is a great deal to read into Cabau’s comments on Inter too. "The most important thing in all of this is Sneijder's hopes of returning to his best with a top level European club; he would still prefer a Premier League transfer," he explains.
"So the most probable scenario now is that Sneijder will stay in his precarious situation at Inter, while the team continue to struggle due to the lack of quality in the midfield. That quality Sneijder could well bring back."
With Inter struggling, Galatasaray apparently begging for the Nerazzurri to drop their asking price, Russia seemingly being too far off the beaten track, and more prominent interest having died down completely, it appears that the fairytale scenario is a long way off for Sneijder. Even all the King's horses and all the King's men have turned their backs on him. Yet his approach over the difficult past few months is to be applauded, says Jelmer van der Dussen.
"I think you can say that his attitude has been pretty mature," he says. "The Sneijder of a few years ago might have done some interviews where he would smash Inter, but he has been pretty quiet so far. He has been very respectful in the media, just talking about a possible future move and not about the way Inter are treating him."
Still, that treatment from the Beneamata means that Sneijder’s value is dropping with each passing day. The more Inter play hard-ball, the less likely they are to get the transfer fee they want, the less clubs will want to pay Sneijder the wages he currently earns, and the more the Dutchman will be inclined to turn down any approaches for financial reasons. All the while, he will know that it is the club missing out most, and that they may well eventually have to rethink their current position.
As things stand, with neither Inter nor Sneijder feeling the inclination to back down, the Dutchman is fast becoming the most unsignable player in the world.