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Wesley Sneijder – One game away

A consensus is developing. Sneijder is the front runner for World Player of the Year recognition. The trophy is soon to be known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or as the two awards, Ballon d’Or and Fifa World Player of the Year, combine into one. In only 12 months Wesley Sneijder has transformed himself from a Real Madrid outcast who was struggling to find another major club interested in signing him into the front runner for the most prestigious award available for individual performances. At Real Madrid the fans, and the staff, wondered where the flair he was so renowned for at Ajax had disappeared to. In many ways the question remains.

The Sneijder of 2010 is not the Sneijder of 2002-2007. The Sneijder of 2010 is clinical, effective and calculating. The previous incarnation was sporadic, random and exhilarating. Fans of the Dutch national team would agree, the previous Sneijder was far more exciting. This Sneijder, though, is victorious. At Ajax he won a solitary Eredevisie title. With Real Madrid he won a La Liga title in his first season, scoring 9 goals, but very few fans. Appreciated by the Ajax fans but never loved and disliked by the Real Madrid fans, who considered him an expensive flop. Wesley Sneijder appeared to be having the career of a typical Dutch attacking midfielder. Inconsistent, more hype than substance and an inflated transfer fee. The Sneijder of the past 12 months is a different beast.

Considered the play maker at Internazionale Milan, he was regarded by fans as the link between midfield and attack that the team had been missing for a long time. Jose Mourinho never quite saw Sneijder as the play maker but he did see him in a different light to how the rest of the world saw Sneijder. Mourinho did not ask Sneijder to dribble around 4 players, ala Lionel Messi, or shoot from 30 yards 3 times a match, ala Cristiano Ronaldo. He wanted Sneijder to play a simple game. Pass the ball accurately, keep to your position, get your shots on target, let everything else fall into place. Everything else did fall into place.

With the important equaliser in the Champions League semi-final and the assist for Diego Milito’s opener in the final, ultimately resulting in the treble with Inter, 4 goals in 5 World Cup matches so far and a World Cup semi-final this evening, simple works best for Wesley Sneijder. Some of his goals have been fortunate, for instance the Japan and Brazil goalkeepers made simple mistakes allowing him to score, but we should take nothing away from Sneijder. Should he be able to conjure one more good performance, with an important assist or vital goal, he will probably be named the World Player of the Year after the summer is over.

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