At first glance, letting a player like Wesley Sneijder go seems like madness. He, who was so crucial to Inter Milan's Champions League title and the Dutch national side's march to the World Cup final. A player known the world over for his intelligence and grace on the ball, for his sublime first touch, powerful free-kicks and defence-splitting passes.
He's only 28, say his supporters, at the height of his powers and is a player who can continue at the top level for some years to come.
Looked at another way, however, it makes a lot of sense. The playmaker hasn't been making many plays in the last 12 months. Sneijder looks a shadow of the man who terrorised defences while Jose Mourinho was on the Inter bench, and though he should, at 28, be at the height of his powers, he looks some way off.
It could be a dip in form, or it could be the sign of a player who can't find the spark—it could even (whisper it) show that he be bothered to give 100 percent any more. After all, some fans questioned Barcelona's thinking when Ronaldinho was allowed to leave for AC Milan in 2008, and Milan's thinking when Kaka was sold to Real Madrid in 2009.
Both Brazilians were Sneijder's age at the time, both seemingly with a lot left on the clock—and both have since seen their once-mercurial powers wither.
Sneijder will always have a place in the hearts of the Nerazzuri faithful, but it's dangerous to be overly sentimental at a huge club such as Inter. Yes, he was integral to Mourinho's side, and his goals and assists—the equaliser he scored against Barcelona in the semifinal comes to mind–were vital in the team's 2010 success. But time waits for no man, and it's been a good while since we've seen the best of Sneijder.
Part of the reason is he no longer fits the mould at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
Under Mourinho, when Sneijder was playing his best, the Dutchman was the vital link in the supply chain to Samuel Eto'o and Diego Milito, the spark of genius that set fire to the forwards' explosive goal-scoring talents.
But now, Eto'o has moved on and Milito has gotten old. Antonio Cassano has come in to offer another creative option and Rodrigo Palacio has provided a 50/50 alternative, playing in the hole behind Milito with the ability to both supply and score regularly.
Andrea Stramaccioni seems keen to deploy the less-talented but more versatile Fredy Guarín—who can play the trequartista role while also helping out defensively—and develop the raw talent of 20-year-old Philippe Coutinho, putting both of them in line for Sneijder's spot on the team sheet.
Are any of those players as good as a top-form Sneijder? Perhaps Cassano, but probably not. Strangely though, they're all a better fit for Inter and that's because since Stramaccioni's arrival, Sneijder hasn't impressed. The young Roman coach is quite right to think it too risky to build a team—and a classic No. 10 like Sneijder does need one built around him—around a faltering talent.
Then, there's the Brass Tacks of it all: the money. By effectively asking him to play an extra year for free, Inter have dealt with the situation poorly and the player is right to be less than impressed at the suggestion.
But paying a reported €6 million a year in basic wages, before plenty of expensive bonuses, to one player who is not regularly playing at a world-class level is unsustainable in this Financial Fair Play world.
Massimo Moratti has bankrolled Inter for years, often making silly purchases and giving players far too much money. Though it may be unpopular now—it may even sting a bit—he's right to turn off the taps.
Inter need to lower their €100 million wage bill and Sneijder is their highest earner. As an example, Cassano makes less than half the Dutchman's salary, while elsewhere superstars like Stevan Jovetic and Edinson Cavani earn significantly less (€2.5m and €4.5m respectively) despite being more crucial to their respective teams.
It's no coincidence the likes of Manchester United no longer court him like they once did. Though it seems ridiculous to think of a player like Sneijder being mentioned in the same sentence as QPR, the simple fact is that in most teams, there's no room for a high-earning but mis-firing—dare I say "luxury"—player.
If getting rid of Sneijder can lighten the financial load on Inter while simultaneously freeing up space in Stramaccioni's squad sheet for younger talent, then it might not be a bad thing at all. After all, the coach doesn't seem overly concerned about not having Sneijder to choose from, so maybe the fans shouldn't either.
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