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United-Sneijder rumours appear to defy logic

29 March 2011

Sneijder had a good World Cup, but has he been impressive domestically? (Flickr: Globovisión)

A Sunday Mirror Exclusive claimed to reveal that Manchester United have renewed their interest in Netherlands and Inter Milan midfielder Wesley Sneijder, a man who has been hot property for the past 18 months.

The premise for the news is that Sir Alex Ferguson is seeking a long-term replacement for Paul Scholes, the 36 year old who may, according to the Mail, retire at the end of the season.

Transfer gossip is of course a large part of football, not just as a tool for newspapers to sell, but also for players seeking a wage rise (see Wayne Rooney) and owners of clubs looking to define their ambitions (see Blackburn Rovers). Some of it is to be taken lightly, other parts of it less so.

Although the Sunday Mirror includes a quote from Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti, where he claims,

The interest from Manchester United in Sneijder is real, but I didn’t look into it. My only interest is seeing Sneijder play here for many more years to come,

one still has to treat the story with much scepticism, not least because of the transfer policy laid out by the Glazers nearly two years ago. Daniel Taylor reported in the Guardian at the time:

Manchester United have made a long-term decision not to sign any players aged 26 or above for large transfer fees because of new financial stipulations that have been put in place at Old Trafford to shape the club’s recruitment policy. Dimitar Berbatov, who was 27 when he signed from Tottenham Hotspur last September, has been described as the “last of his kind” [by David Gill, the club’s Chief Executive].

The move makes particular sense with the introduction of UEFA’s financial fair play rules, which stipulate clubs must break even from the 2011-12 season on a three-year rolling basis. It is also a strategy Liverpool, amongst others, appear to be pursuing.

Sneijder, 27 in June, would not meet United’s recruitment requirements at a reported price of £40million. The story is a non-starter, but why the quote from Moratti, which we will assume to be genuine?

It’s at this stage where I must confess that I do not follow Italian Serie A closely, and am seeking answers to questions on Sneijder’s form over the past two seasons. I will, however, state some facts about the Dutchman based on his performances in the seasons 2009/10 and 2010/11:

  • No goals from open play in the Serie A in 2010, and only two in total, both against Siena in January.
  • Eleven assists over two seasons domestically, as many as Samuel Eto’o, and six less than Maicon.
  • Seven goals across two seasons, less than teammates Stankovic, Thiago Motta, Balotelli, Cambiasso, Eto’o and Milito.

These statistics have a negative spin, but that is to set up the question: is Moratti trying to sell Sneijder? Sneijder has been outstanding in the Champions League, with six goals and more assists than any teammate across two seasons, and has drawn much praise as a result. However, his statistical record domestically is less flattering, so perhaps Moratti sees an opportunity to cash in on his star player. Clubs and agents are known to test the water for interest in their players.

I must stress I am only speculating, and would love for some feedback from those more informed on Italian football.

From Manchester United’s point of view, however, this is a total non-story. Their transfer policy prevents them signing Sneijder for a significant sum, and it’s difficult to see the Glazers breaking such a policy given UEFA regulations.

Get in touch via the comments below, or via Twitter, as Ben Franks has done. Is Sneijder overrated based on his European and World Cup performances? Would he be a wise investment for any club?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ben permalink
    29 March 2011 5:13 am

    There is no doubt that Sneijder is a quality player, World Class in fact, and you don’t deny that here. However, stats aren’t always the most important thing. As a Spurs fan I will take two examples of this- Luka Modric and Darren Bent.

    Darren Bent, statistically, is one of the best strikers in England and has been over the last few seasons, but does that make him a better player than the players (statistically) he is ‘better’ than? I don’t think so. The likes of van Persie, Torres (despite his poor form), Anelka and Berbatov are better players in my opinion though the stats wouldn’t back that up.

    Luka Modric in his new deep lying role for Spurs doesn’t score many or get many assists, someone like Gareth Barry who has been discussed on here previously or even Alex Song have better statistics than him but there is no doubt who is the superior player out of those three. Admittedly, these players are not in the same mould as Modric, but I am using them purely for statistics reasons.

    In the Benitez days Sneijder’s poor form was well documented, but I think that goes without saying for the whole Inter team, looking at their results under him. I don’t think you can read too much in to him only scoring 2 goals from open play in 2010 when you consider what he achieved domestically; after all, you don’t start week in week out for Inter Milan under Jose Mourinho and win the league if you aren’t performing well enough. No personality is too big for him.

    I don’t think by the summer he will be worth £40 million. I don’t think Man Utd would pay £20 million, let alone 40, but most of all I don’t think he is the man to replace Scholes.The man they want to replace Scholes is Luka Modric, in my opini0n.


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