The 2000s were blessed with many Dutch superstars who seemingly looked to rule the world of football. The headlines were filled with names such as Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt and Rafael Van Der Vaart that were in the mouths spoken by Football fans. One of the names that topped that list was the longshot maestro himself, Wesley Sneijder.
Where to start with Wesley Sneijder, well for starters, the man came from the Ajax academy, which is one of the best football academies to grow as a footballer, the potential coming out of Amsterdam year in and year out is unbelievable by all accounts. Unlike the top teens of the Eredivisie that leave once they play a season or two, Sneijder took some time to cement his name in the Netherlands.
Spending 8 years at Ajax, Sneijder was a fan favourite for many as his dominance in the midfield as well as the attack was lethal. Sneijder was making ripples right from the start, playing in 17 matches and having 6 goal contributions in his first season. The season after in 2003/2004, Sneijder was even more profound, a whole 20 goal contributions in 30 matches in the Eredivisie all while bringing another Dutch league title to Amsterdam.
In the 4 years, Sneijder was a key player for the successes of Ajax. In the 2004/2005 campaign he went back to back and delivered another league title. The two seasons after that he once again went back to back but with the Dutch Cup instead. In his career at Amsterdam, he finished with 58 goals, 45 assists and a decent trophy cabinet to go along with it. This rise to fame only got the top clubs in Europe keen on grabbing his signature, who wouldn’t want a prominent attacking midfielder with the great passing ability and a shot that could burn right through the netting?
So, after the 2006/2007 season, who other than Spanish giants, Real Madrid could come knocking at his door. In the Summer of 2007, Sneijder was on his way to the Spanish capital after a fee of 30 million dollars was agreed upon. Although the Dutchman had a semi-successful first season at Madrid winning both the league title and Spanish super cup, his impact wasn’t as prominent as it was in Ajax. In 66 appearances over 2 seasons, Sneijder finished with more yellow cards (19) than either goals (11) or assists (12).
In Sneijder’s autobiography, he mentions that at Madrid he was “worshiped as a Real player”, stating that the fame of his arrival took over in negative ways. “I was young and enjoyed the success and attention”, admitting that it was the partying side of things that led to his focus being “less concentrated”. Being a prominent young talent at a large club has had its side effects on many players throughout the years and Sneijder was no different, but unlike many others, his story was just getting started.
2 years after joining Los Blancos, luxurious Italian club Inter Milan was interested in Sneijder’s services, and he was eager to make an impact once again. For a fee of half of what Real Madrid paid, Sneijder left in the summer of 2009 to have a taste of the Serie A, and what a team he was about to play with. When we talk about world-class teams, Inter Milan in 2009/2010 were stacked with firepower, to say the least. We’re talking Julio Cesar, Javier Zanetti, Maicon, Diego Milito, Samuel Eto’o, Marco Materazzi and a young Mario Balotelli just to name a few. Sneijder fit perfectly in the middle of that setup.
That 2009/2010 season would be monumental and Sneijder was in the middle of it. Inter Milan would go on to complete Europe’s most prestigious record, first winning the Italian Cup, then winning the Serie A, and topping it off with a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the final of the UEFA Champions League to crown themselves treble winners. Sneijder would contribute with 8 goals and 15 assists that season and would be ready by the summer to travel with the Dutch team for the World Cup.
2010 was a pretty phenomenal year for Sneijder and it would only get crazier. South Africa was the nation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the Netherlands were flying. A flawless run up until the final saw Sneijder scoring 5 and assisting once in the 7 matches he played. Unfortunately, the unstoppable Spanish National side would beat them from an Andres Iniesta-winning goal in extra time and would place the Netherlands 2nd in the tournament. In a similar disappointing fashion, Sneijder was snubbed again at the end of the year from the Ballon d’Or by a young Lionel Messi who clinched it instead. Sneijder would finish his career at Inter Milan in 2013 completing his Seria A legacy with 22 goals and 35 assists throughout his 3 seasons.
Afterwards, Sneijder would transfer to Turkish side Galatasaray for 8 million dollars and would have his last bit of prominence in the 4 years he would play there. Sneijder would be pretty crucial for Galatasaray as he would win 3 league titles and 3 Turkish cups all while essentially crushing his previous goal and assist tallies with Inter and Real combined. He finished with 45 goals and 44 assists in 175 matches in all competitions with the Turkish side. Sneijder would then finish his career with two spells in France with OGC Nice and in Saudi Arabia with Al-Gharafa SC before retiring in 2019 at the surprisingly young age of 34.
One of the most underrated ballers of the 2000s, Wesley Sneijder was a threat beyond all other names looming around at that time. The Dutchman could strike from as far out as you could see and bring skill, pace, and constant momentum with every attack he was a part of. Unfortunately getting into his prime in his early 20s, Sneijder cemented himself as one of Europe’s best in 2010 but could not keep that stature up at the top level.
Nevertheless, Sneijder will always be remembered in the footballing world for that Inter Milan dominance and that impressive Dutch run in South Africa. Yeah, there are players now like Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Bruno Fernandes and Hakim Ziyech to name a few longshot kings, there was nobody at the time like Wesley Sneijder, after all, he was For The Culture.