Persistence is the reason Wesley Sneijder ended up at Inter Milan.
His marriage had broken up and he had endured an indifferent season on the pitch. Sneijder must have felt that circumstances were conspiring against him after being told he wasn't wanted at the Bernabeu. But despite several offers, the Dutchman maintained that he wanted to stay in Madrid, stick it out in the Merengues' galaxy of stars, aware of the risk that he may see little action on the pitch.
Clubs came and went, but Inter maintained their interest and were rewarded for their steadfast approach when the player finally agreed to move to the San Siro, accepting that he had no future in Spain.
A product of the Dutch club’s famous youth system, Sneijder was spotted at a young age and climbed the ranks at the Amsterdam club.
He was initially earmarked as a winger, but the youngster’s skill and passing ability convinced coaches that he would be best suited to a central position. At Ajax, players are taught to perform in several positions and Sneijder featured at full-back in various youth tournaments.
Club legend Danny Blind was in charge of the youth set-up and helped ensure Sneijder made his first-team debut at 18.
Sneijder helped Ajax win the league in 2002 and 2004, while three national cups were claimed during his time at the club. It was in 2007 that Real Madrid came calling after Sneijder scored an impressive 18 league goals, his best season total.
Bright Start in Madrid:
Sneijder's first season at Real was characterized by spectacular free-kicks, raking passes and a strong work ethic. He also scored a few goals.
Few were expecting much from the Dutchman, who hardly fitted into the mould of the galactico supporters had been used to. But they were quickly won round after he scored the winner against Atletico in the Madrid derby, and followed that up with two more against Villarreal in the next league match.
He hit nine goals in that first season as Real retained the Liga title.
The following season was a stark contrast to his first. Sneijder suffered a serious knee injury in a pre-season friendly against Arsenal and after returning he failed to regain the spectacular form that had characterized his first campaign.
Despite being keen to make a fist of it in his third season, Sneijder was sold to Inter Milan for little more than half the amount Real had paid Ajax for him two summers earlier.
Trophies Galore at Inter:
Sneijder was Inter’s best player in his first season at the club, and was a key presence as the Nerazzurri won the Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia.
He quickly justified his transfer fee, making a mockery of Real’s decision to sell him on the cheap.
Sneijder made his debut for the Netherlands against Portugal in April 2003.
His first major tournament was Euro 2004 where he was a peripheral figure, despite contributing two goals in qualifying.
Four years later it was a different story as he was named in UEFA's Team of the Tournament after some superb performances helped the Dutch reach the quarter-finals. He backed up a majestic volley against Italy in the group stages with another splendid effort from outside the area against France as the Netherlands brought these two superpowers to their knees with emphatic victories.
At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa he finished joint top scorer with five goals, including a double against Brazil in the quarter-finals. He was ineffectual in the 1-0 final defeat to a vastly superior Spanish side, but was one of his country’s standout performers in the tournament as a whole.
Sneijder's ability to knit moves together with his vast repertoire of passing skills is key for club and country.