No player picked up more Man of the Match awards at the last FIFA World Cup™ than Wesley Sneijder, adjudged the best player on show in four of the Netherlands’ seven matches. Nor were those the only awards with which he returned from South Africa, with a runners-up medal accompanied by the adidas Silver Ball and Bronze Boot, reflecting his status as the tournament’s second-best player and third-highest scorer.
Sneijder would also find himself on FIFA’s Team of the Year, and named UEFA’s best midfielder of 2010, and deserved no less for his performances in a truly extraordinary year for club and country. After all, while he fell just short of World Cup glory with the Netherlands, Sneijder picked up a collection of winner’s medals for Inter Milan, most notably the coveted UEFA Champions League.
It was the culmination of the midfielder’s increasingly spectacular rise from the precocious youngster first glimpsed in the famous red-and-white of Ajax at the age of 18. After establishing himself with the Amsterdam giants, winning seven trophies and earning a place in the national team, Sneijder departed for Real Madrid in 2007 for €27 million – making him the second-most expensive Dutchman in history.
This gifted playmaker impressed at times in Madrid, but a new wave of arrivals prompted Los Merengues to offload him to Inter for €15 million in 2009 – and how they would regret that decision. Sneijder went on to confirm his status as one of the finest midfielders in the world and, while his career has stalled a little since 2010 – with exile at Inter and a not entirely successful move to Galatasaray – the respect he holds among his team-mates is evident.
Indeed, when Louis van Gaal implied that he might not select the midfielder for Brazil 2014 due to his unconvincing club form, Arjen Robben’s response was unequivocal. "When he plays at his own level and is fully match fit, which he is now, Wesley is a player who brings something extra,” said the Bayern Munich winger. “You need that at a World Cup. Wesley is an extraordinary player when he's at his best and we have to take advantage of that. He still adds something to the Oranje."