Wesley Sneijder has announced his retirement from the game of soccer at the age of 35 after a career blessed with success. Here’s a look back over his time in the sport.
Sneijder was born in Utrecht in 1984 and joined the prestigious Ajax academy at the age of 7 and he went on to make 180 appearances for the club scoring 58 goals and assisting a further 45 helping his side win one Eredivise and two KNVB Cups.
Unfortunately for Ajax, his performances hadn’t gone unnoticed and in August 2007 Spanish giants Real Madrid came calling with a bid of £25m – he’d go for a damn site more in today’s market – and Sneijder headed for La Liga.
When Sneijder was introduced as the latest ‘Galactico’ he had big boots to fill as he took on David Beckham’s number 23 shirt but in his first season he was part of the team that finished 18 points ahead of Barcelona, who ended the campaign in third place behind Villarreal, to win La Liga.
Another season in Spain followed, during which time he made his overall record 11 goals and 11 assists in 66 appearances before he joined an Inter Milan side destined for the history books under the tutelage of Jose Mourinho.
2010, a year to remember for Sneijder
During his three and a half years he got his great career achievements, especially in his inaugural season. The Nerazzurri completed an incredible treble of the Serie A table, the Coppa Italia, and the Champions League.
In total the Dutchman made 116 appearances for Inter, netting 22 times, including strikes in both the quarter and semi-finals of the successful Champions League campaign, and 35 assists – none more important than the one he provided for Diego Milito to notch the opening goal of the final.
Sneijder and the Inter hierarchy eventually butted heads somewhat and Sneijder joined Galatasaray and set out with the intention of becoming a ‘legend’ for the Turkish giants and involvement in 89 goals – with a broadly even split between goals and assists – in just 175 games means he became exactly that. Sneijder proved to be a key player as his team won five major trophies during his stay, two leagues, and three cups.
The end was clearly nearing for Sneijder as no man can play on forever and a short and uninspiring spell at Nice wouldn’t have been the way for a player of his caliber to sign off. So he joined Al-Gharafa in Qatar becoming the third major name to represent the club after rock-solid defender Marcel Desailly and Brazilian technician Ze Roberto.
Although it’s not the same standard of soccer Sneijder is known for, he was at least able to sign off with a final piece of silverware – the Qatari Stars Cup.
A legend for club and country
It’s not just at a club level where Sneijder has made an impact though and, considering what a phenomenal soccer nation the Netherlands are, it’s no small compliment to label him a Dutch legend.
In March 2003 Sneijder made his Under 21 debut as an 18-year-old; it proved to be his only appearance at that level as a month later he received a senior call up and featured in a 1-1 draw with Portugal. Sneijder, nor the Netherlands, ever looked back and he went on to become their all-time appearance maker with a whopping 134 games under his belt – 25 of them at major tournaments.
The Dutch failed to lift a trophy during Sneijder’s career but came agonizingly close in the 2010 World Cup when five goals from their magician midfielder and a man of the match semi-final display had helped them to the final against Spain but after a grueling contest, an Andres Iniesta goal deep into extra time stole glory away.
When Sneijder looks back on his career that World Cup might prove the one disappointment given just how close his nation was but he’ll hold his head high and go down as one of the best players of his generation.
Sneijder was a gifted playmaker who could score or create from literally anywhere on the pitch and his technical ability was second to none.
With Arjen Robben and Van Persie also having retired this year, we say goodbye to one of the best Dutch generations to ever grace the pitch.
Wesley Sneijder, you were a joy to watch. Thanks for the memories. Enjoy your retirement.