Perpetual Manchester United target Wesley Sneijder finally looks set to fulfill his destiny by securing a lucrative move… to Juventus.
Based on various media sources, Wesley Sneijder has been on the verge of joining Manchester United in nearly every transfer window over the last four-plus years. The media continue to link Sneijder to United even though the team has no need for him as he doesn’t play center-back and there are already too many creative midfield types at the club. Sure, there have been other names continuously linked with the club, like Cesc Fabregas, Gareth Bale or Arturo Vidal. But none of those players have generated as many stories or produced as many twists-and-turns over the years as Sneijder. He’s been on the way to Old Trafford for so long that United might as well give him a testimonial when he retires.
In fact, “Sneijder-to-United” stories have become a cottage industry. For one thing, it seems as if all media outlets are now contractually obligated to refer to him as “Manchester United target Wesley Sneijder.” Either that or he legally changed his name to that a la Ravishing Rick Rude. Don’t believe me? Then look at this headline, which is about him joining Juventus.
Meanwhile, most of these stories seem to be variations on the same theme to the extent that I wouldn’t be surprised if newspapers and websites have a generic “Wesley Sneijder Could Join Manchester United” story on standby in case it’s a slow news day- they just need to change the date and maybe the rumored price tag. It usually goes something like:
Dutch midfield maestro Wesley Sneijder could finally arrive at Old Trafford in a [FILL IN THE BLANK] million deal in [FILL IN DATE]. Manchester United officials have admired the midfielder for some time and have identified Sneijder as the ideal solution to their offensive woes. [STORIES WRITTEN AFTER JULY 2014 SHOULD CONTAIN AN OBLIGATORY REFERENCE TO LOUIS VAN GAAL AND HOW HE AND SNEIJDER LOVE EACH OTHER AS A RESULT OF THEIR TIME WITH THE DUTCH NATIONAL TEAM].
For a little history lesson, the Sneijder-to-United chatter first reached a fever pitch in 2010 as the Dutch midfielder was coming off a career year. Cast aside by Real Madrid the previous summer, Sneijder led Inter to the treble [the linked article is one of the few to broach the possibility of Sneijder leaving and NOT name Manchester United as a possible destination] and was one of the best players at the 2010 World Cup as he led the Dutch team to the Final against Spain. Based on reports, Sir Alex Ferguson ID’ed Sneijder as the perfect replacement for the soon-to-retire Paul Scholes and, like rolling a pebble down Mount Everest, the Sneijder-to-United perma-story was born.
A Timeline of the Madness:
June 2008 – The earliest Sneijder-to-United rumor seems to have come about during Cristiano Ronaldo’s initlal flirtation with Real Madrid. Several media outlets reported that Sneijder, then with Madrid, would be used as a makeweight in the deal. “In short, I’m flattered to be linked to Manchester United…but it’s not happening,” Sneijder wrote on his personal website. “End of story.”
August 2009 – Amusingly, Manchester United was nowhere to be found when Real Madrid decided to dump Sneijder to Inter for €15 million. According to the Daily Mail, Sneijder was linked heavily with Aston Villa, of all teams. Another rumor had him going to AC Milan to replace the Chelsea-bound Andrea Pirlo. We know how that one turned out.
June 2010 – As is its wont, Manchester United waited until Sneijder’s stock soared through the roof before making its interest known (see also Angel Di Maria). The Mirror’s first Manchester United/Sneijder story ran with the headline “Manchester United In Shock Sneijder Move.” That’s the last time anyone was shocked by the idea of Sneijder being linked with United. Nowadays, the bigger shock would be if people stopped linking him to the club.
July 2010 – Embracing his inner troll, Inter’s president Massimo Moratti decides to fan the flames a bit. The Express runs a story entitled: “Inter Claim United Fancy Sneijder.” “I believe the offer is real,” [Inter president Massimo] Moratti told Gazzetta dello Sport. “But I have not even wanted to ask too much in order not to be tempted.” So you’re saying there’s a chance, then?
July 2010 – Now we have a price tag! The Mirror runs an exclusive (an exclusive!): “Man Utd target £25m Wesley Sneijder – Exclusive.” If that deal had gone through, then Sneijder would have cost less than Marouane Fellaini (and £1 mil more than his “good buddy” Robin van Persie).
July 2010 – Sneijder makes a public statement and rejects what is now a £29 million transfer to United. “I have a very good feeling at Inter and I don’t want to let them down after winning everything and losing Jose Mourinho,” he said. “I’m not surprised by the interest because I’ve been playing well but my intention is to stay at Inter. I want to talk with them about extending my contract.” So, that settles it, right?
July 2010 – Sneijder and van Persie hit out at future Manchester United teammate Howard Webb over Webb’s officiating in the World Cup Final. It’s sure going to be awkward when they all reunite at Carrington…
September 2010 – A glimmer of hope! Sneijder’s contract talks with Inter collapse and now Ferguson and Mourinho will battle it out for the unsettled Dutch maestro.
October 2010 – After staging his own contract revolt, Wayne Rooney agrees to stick around after receiving assurances that the club’s ambition matches his own. He publicly expresses his admiration for the now £40 million Sneijder and clearly wants the Dutch midfielder at United.
October 2010 – Except Sneijder has finally signed a new deal with Inter to keep him at the club until 2015. So, that should end the Sneijder-to-United stories for the time being, right?
April 2011 – It did for a little while- at least until Sneijder bats his eyelashes at Ferguson and Man Utd. “Do I want to go to United? It’s a beautiful club,” he says coyly. Clearly, that’s a “come-and-get-me” plea if there ever were one, right?
May 2011 – The Daily Mail publishes “Commentary: Modric, Sneijder, Rodwell… Who Can Fill the Void Left by United Legend Scholes?” That’s the last time anyone ever uttered Jack Rodwell’s name in the same breath as Paul Scholes, Luka Modric and Wesley Sneijder. Until that last sentence, of course.
June 2011 – Ferguson is desperate to sign Sneijder before the club is taken over by the Qatari royal family. Wow, whatever happened to that rumor?
July 2011 – Remember when Wayne Rooney said he wanted Sneijder as his teammate. Well, turns our Wayne only wants the deal if Sneijder makes less than him. So much for matching his ambitions.
July 2011 – DEAL! The Daily Mail reports that Sneijder has agreed to a £35 million transfer to United. The story says Sneijder compromised on his wage demands and agreed to make less than Rooney. “It is understood Gill made clear United’s willingness to pay £35m, with an official bid expected to be lodged before the weekend. Although Inter are reluctant to sell, they accept they cannot turn down such a lucrative bid.” So, everyone lived happily ever after, right?
July 2011 – NO DEAL! The Daily Mail now reports that United don’t want to pay £35 million and Sneijder doesn’t want to settle for £190,000 a week – basically, the exact opposite of what it reported the previous day. Goal.com reports that Nike could get involved by offering endorsements and other revenues to help boost Sneijder’s take-home-pay. “If Nike wants you to move then you will move,” a source told Goal.com. “Nike wants Sneijder to Manchester United because it is easier for them to use him as a commercial icon.” So everything’s all set?
July 2011 – Federico Macheda seems to think so as he sends out a Tweet hoping to see Wesley Sneijder soon. Seems innocuous enough, but Macheda is forced to delete it immediately. These days, social media moves are the biggest tell that a deal is imminent. Marcos Rojo started following Wayne Rooney, Adnan Januzaj and Robin van Persie on Instagram right before he moved to United. Luke Shaw prematurely confirmed his transfer to United on Twitter before being forced to change it. That’s why the football media went crazy when Leo Messi started following Chelsea players on Instagram this week.
August 2011 – Ferguson seems to throw in the towel, declaring that he’s happy with his midfield options. In fact, he even says, with a straight face, that Anderson is capable of filling Scholes’s boots. With jelly or sugar maybe.
Misc. 2011 – Various United legends have their say, including David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Eric Cantona. “He’s strong. Sometimes he reminds me of myself,” The King decrees. So he throws a mean kung-fu kick then?
Throughout 2011 and 2012 – Sneijder says he came close to joining United in the summer of 2011. He says he would have joined in January 2012, only there was never an offer. Meanwhile, City get into the Sneijder sweepstakes as Inter tries to force Sneijder to take a pay cut.
January 2013 – DEAL! Sneijder finally leaves Inter in a bargain basement £8.3 million deal with… Galatasaray?
July 2014 – Van Gaal’s appointment as manager at United reignites those pesky old rumors as Sneijder sounds keen to join up with his former manager. And his buyout clause in his Galatasaray contract is fairly low – only £15.9 million. That’s less than what Rojo cost and nearly half what Dimitar Berbatov cost. Ultimately, the move doesn’t come about because, as Sneijder says, he needs Champions League football.
October 2014 – A pay dispute threatens to see Sneijder’s contract voided, leaving the midfielder free to join any team (read: Manchester United). Ultimately, the dispute is resolved, but surely, this means Sneijder is going to want to leave a fiscally unstable club as soon as possible, right?
December 2014 – Manchester United could battle it out with Southampton for Sneijder. Those are two clubs you don’t see go head-to-head on transfers very often…
Instead, it looks like our hero could be suiting up for Juventus soon. But fear not readers! Sneijder’s move could result in Juve being willing to sell another long-term United target that has been the subject of daily stories about whether he or not he was joining the club: Arturo Vidal. Looks like Sneijder is the gift that keeps on giving.
[UPDATE, 3/1/15]: Sneijder ended up staying at Galatasaray, but not before one last round of Manchester United-related rumors]
[UPDATE, 5/28/15]: It really is the rumor that just won’t die.
[UPDATE, 9/28/22]: Ferguson claims he never tried to sign Sneijder. Legit or damage control?