May 22nd 2010 – Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan completed a historic treble with a Champions League triumph against Bayern Munich in the final. Their side was unstoppable from the formidable defence of Lucio and Samuel to the devastating attack of Eto’o and Milito. But at the core of this side, pulling the strings, was Wesley Sneijder.
The Dutchman’s creativity had no bounds. In central attacking midfield, he was orchestrating play in this Nerazzurri side a crucial aspect of their limitless success in 2009/10. Alongside his pinpoint accurate passing, The Sniper was a long distance specialist from thunderous strikes into the top corners, to curling free-kicks that cushioned into the side netting. His domestic season may not have provided an astronomical number of goals and assists for Inter, yet his endeavours were instrumental in their year of dominance.
After his €15 million switch from the Bernabeu, Sneijder won the hearts of Inter Milan fans immediately with a convincing debut against rivals AC. His first goal at the San Siro was a 92nd-minute winner against Udinese to kick-start the season. After this, he was in full flow creating chance after chance, scoring free-kick after free-kick (2 stunners in one game against Siena being the most memorable) and in general making the Inter team tick.
But not only was the Ajax graduate splitting helpless Italian defences making them look like amateurs, he was flourishing against Europe’s elite. After a trademark free-kick to settle Inter’s tie against CSKA Moscow in the Quarter Finals, he scored the equaliser in the first leg of the semi-final against Barcelona, proving to be vital in Inter’s 3-2 progression to the final.
Now German giants Bayern Munich were standing in the way of the best season in the Inter’s history. Yet Mourinho’s men prevailed. An assist to Diego Milito’s first goal from Sneijder began proceedings before the Argentine sealed the deal for the Nerazzurri. The man who had been let go by Real Madrid just months ago had won the Champions League at the Bernabeu for his new team. You could not write this.
But the Dutchman had his sights on even greater glory. International glory in the form of the World Cup. The Netherlands arrived in South Africa as dark horses, nowhere near favourites. Yet Wesley Sneijder and co had other ideas:
The club season was simply a curtain raiser for what the midfield maestro was about to provide us with. He opened his account with the winner in a 1-0 win against Japan before yet another decisive goal in a 2-1 victory against Slovakia in the round of 16. Many thought this would be as far as the Clockwork Orange would go with Brazil as their quarter-final opponents. Yet Sneijder thought otherwise with a superb brace pulling his team through as 2-1 victors against the Seleção.
A goal in a 2-1 victory against Uruguay in the semi-final followed for the Inter midfielder who simply could not put a foot wrong. With 5 goals in the tournament now, he was unstoppable, truly having the season of a lifetime. Dutch fans began to believe with Spain as the final hurdle to football’s most coveted trophy.
It was not meant to be. The tense 0-0 stalemate was destined to go to penalties before Andres Iniesta broke Holland hearts in the 116th minute. Spain were crowned champions of the world and Wesley Sneijder was denied what would have been a guaranteed Ballon D’or. 4 man of the match awards with 5 goals and he STILL didn’t even win the Golden Ball. How much more unlucky could he get after dragging his team to the final?
As a result, Wesley Sneijder is not given the recognition and credit he deserves for that season. If it wasn’t for Iker Casillas’ foot, we may have witnessed one of the most successful seasons in football history for a single player. Sadly instead, you’re reading this article and thinking of what could have been.