Wesley Sneijder was set for great things after his move from Ajax to Real Madrid. The Netherlands international did not perform badly at all at the Santiago Bernabeu, but he was let go in the summer of 2009 when Galacticos 2.0 came into force.
Inter Milan, then managed by Jose Mourinho, gladly took him in. The 2009-10 season was the Dutchman’s best in his career so far, as he played a key role in the Nerazzurri winning an unprecedented treble: Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League.
However, that also proved to be the last year in which Sneijder was truly on form. He left Inter for Galatasaray in January 2013, and now there is a strong suggestion that he is past his best at the age of 30.
When Louis van Gaal became the Netherlands coach in 2012, he took the captain’s armband from Sneijder and gave it to Robin van Persie, and last year he dropped the former Madrid midfielder from his team.
Van Gaal was concerned with Sneijder’s fitness, but since then, the 2010 UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year has regained his full fitness and has worked hard to earn a place for himself in the Oranje’s 23-man World Cup squad.
But how important were Van Gaal’s harsh words on Sneijder? Did they motivate him?
‘Subconsciously there is a motivation’, he told World Soccer magazine. ‘But a player makes the best of a situation all by himself. At least that’s what I did.’
When asked if he was surprised to be in the Dutch squad, Sneijder said: ‘No, because my form and fitness are okay. Every weekend I’ve played for Galatasaray on a high level. That means that I’m fit.
So Sneijder pats himself on the back for getting into shape and being a self-motivator. He did take the help of kickboxer Gokhan Saki, though, but he makes it clear that Van Gaal’s criticism of him had no effect. Is this going to be a problem for Manchester United players next season? Let’s wait and watch.
As for the Netherlands, Sneijder’s return to full fitness is only going to help them. Van Gaal’s side have been drawn against Spain, Chile and Australia in a tough Group B, and the former Ajax star will be needed by the Oranje to progress to the last 16.