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'Vodka became my best friend' - Sneijder regrets 'rock-and-roll' lifestyle at Real Madrid

18:03 BST 25/06/2020
Wesley Sneijder - Real Madrid
The 36-year-old former Netherlands international admits success went to his head in the Spanish capital, where he was "worshipped"

Former Real Madrid star Wesley Sneijder admits that he has regrets over the “rock-and-roll” lifestyle he had during his time at Santiago Bernabeu.

The ex-Netherlands international playmaker joined Los Blancos from Ajax in 2007 for €27 million (£24.5m/$30m) but departed two years later for €15m to Inter.

While he struggled at the Spanish giants, he excelled in Italy, leading Inter to the Champions League in 2010 – a year in which many critics felt he would have been a worthy winner of the Ballon d’Or.

Sneijder has admitted that his strong form in Milan only arrived after a learning curve in Spain’s capital.

“I was young and enjoyed the success and attention,” he explains in his new autobiography, which is published on Friday.

“It must have gone wrong there -- later. No drugs, but alcohol and 'rock and roll'. I got used to that, as one of the stars... You are worshipped as a Real player.

“All your mis-steps are instantly forgiven because of your status and popularity. Even if I rolled over the street and spent thousands of euros, or gave rounds to the whole bar. I cannot say that I resisted enough.”

Indeed, he admits that fame cost him his first marriage.

"I was left alone and didn't see the little one, Jessey, much, that was sh*t. And I'm bad at being alone. Why would you even be alone when you have enough friends to spend your time with," he said.

"I just didn't realise that the bottle of vodka became my best friend."

Compatriots Arjen Robben and Ruud van Nistelrooy, who were at Madrid at the same, encouraging him to change his lifestyle, which he says he thought he could disguise with his excellence on the ball.

“I still played a lot, but not so good and sharply, less concentrated. My attitude was unworthy of Real Madrid. I lied to myself that it was going well and I held my own by my football intelligence. Physically I deteriorated. I ran less, covered up a lot with my technique and my kicking technique. I also thought no one noticed,” he said.

The 36-year-old turned out 66 times and scored 11 goals in all competitions with Real, helping them to win La Liga in 2007-08.

His career took him to Inter, Galatasaray, Nice and Al-Gharafa, while he played 134 times for the Netherlands international side, scoring 31 goals in total while helping them to a third placed finish at the 2010 World Cup.