OneFootball·10 June 2023
OneFootball·10 June 2023
Big moments call for big players – and below we break down the iconic campaign of FC Internazionale Milano hero Wesley Sneijder, who will take on a FedEx Ambassador role in Istanbul for the UEFA Champions League Final.
It’s fair to say that the Netherlands enjoyed a golden generation in the mid-late 2000s, with Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Rafael van der Vaart all breaking through.
Each of those players enjoyed incredible careers in their own right but Wesley Sneijder shone just as bright.
To this day, he remains De Oranje’s most capped player with 134 appearances and achieved something few other players can, by playing a pivotal role in a treble-winning season.
There was always talent in those boots but under José Mourinho at Inter in 2009/10, we truly saw the best of the Dutchman after his mixed spell with Real Madrid.
After a quiet but steady Champions League group stage, Sneijder came to life in the knockout rounds with six goal contributions in seven games (2 goals, 4 assists).
His performance in the semi-final first leg against Barcelona will go down in Nerazzurri history, scoring and assisting against *that* Pep Guardiola super team before assisting the opener in the final against Bayern Munich.
In addition to the Champions League, Inter ran out treble winners after winning the Coppa Italia and Serie A titles – cementing his place in club history.
Sneijder was a unique talent with an effortless ability to jink past players, combine with teammates and execute passes that seemed almost impossible.
But when it came to ball striking? He was in a league of his own.
Leave him in space within 25 yards of goal and the Utrecht-born midfielder would find the top corner with power and accuracy, not to mention scoring 30 direct free-kicks throughout his career.
“Without Sneijder this dream was not possible,” Mourinho explained after securing the treble. “We are an experienced team with players who will fight until the end, but nobody else could provide this type of magic”.
And that love was more than reciprocated.
“He (Mourinho) demands everything from us during games but also gives you freedom when you need it,” Sneijder revealed in his autobiography “SNEIJDER” years later.
To this day, frustration still simmers among Inter fans after Sneijder was overlooked for the Ballon d’Or award in 2010, with the Dutchman eventually finishing fourth behind Barcelona trio Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and eventual winner Lionel Messi.
He was, however, named UEFA midfielder of the season and capped an incredible individual campaign as joint-top scorer (five goals) at the 2010 World Cup – where the Netherlands lost out to Spain in the final.
Injuries impacted his time at Inter after that and he did feature in the Champions League for other clubs, such as Ajax, Real Madrid and Galatasaray.
But nothing compared to that season where Sneijder was effectively the best player in world football and the Nerazzurri faithful will remember him as just that.