Wesley Sneijder: Is Inter Milan Midfielder a Good Fit for Manchester United?

Terry CarrollContributor IIIDecember 11, 2012

Wesley Sneijder
Wesley SneijderClaudio Villa/Getty Images

The rumours about Inter Milan midfielder Wesley Sneijder joining Manchester United have resurfaced. That makes at least four consecutive transfer windows when this has been mooted.

And why shouldn't Sir Alex finally sign a player he has apparently coveted for some time?

You only have to watch the Paddy Crerand show on MUTV for a couple of years to hear how many people keep asking if or when Wesley Sneijder is going to come to Old Trafford.


Reasons not to buy Sneijder

Paul Scholes is the obvious player for Sneijder to replace. Kagawa doesn't do that. He's not even like a younger Paul Scholes who played in the number 10 role. Wayne Rooney would fill that if anyone would.

Or would he? Maybe that is one of the ways Sneijder could be accommodated. No doubt that would be his ideal position. Rooney has already indicated he would be prepared to play in midfield and indeed expects to do so later in his career.

Now Sir Alex has also been quoted that Sneijder could not replace Scholes. Does that mean he's a different type of player, or is he actually implying that Scholes is irreplaceable, likening him to Xavi or Iniesta?

Scholes couldn't play in the Barcelona team now but Sneijder could.

In the past, the fee may have been a stumbling block. £30 million for Lucas Moura at 19 might have been good business, even though he isn't a first team regular for Brazil. But he's not Paul Scholes either.

Now it has been assumed that United wouldn't pay big money for players over 27, but the Glazers have always backed Sir Alex's judgement. He bought Dimitar Berbatov, but more importantly some misguided people thought £23 million was too much for Robin Van Persie. How wrong they were!

At the end of the day it's a matter of striking a balance. 

In the next couple of years, United could lose a great deal of experience. Rio Ferdinand is 34. Vidic, Evra and Carrick are 31, and Giggs and Scholes will almost certainly retire next summer.

Darren Fletcher will have to manage his clinical condition for the rest of his career. The experience will therefore have to rest with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Jonny Evans, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia. Robin Van Persie will therefore be key, as would Sneijder.

Signing older players doesn't have to stunt the growth of younger players. Sir Alex has continued to stick by his policy of rotation, and United almost need three squads these days: one for the Premier League, one for the Champions League and one for the secondary Cups.

It may not be ideal for younger players to be restricted primarily to these Cups, but they also have a chance to showcase their skills in the pre-season tour because many of the senior players are being rested or in international tournaments.

You only have to look at Danny Welbeck giving credit to Van Persie for what he's learning from him or players like Hernandez benefiting from Michael Owen.

Finance would have been cited by some people as a reason not to buy Sneijder in the past, with the suggestion that United would not match his wages at Inter. Ironically, finance could be the key to United actually signing him.


So why sign Wesley Sneijder?

If United don't sign him now they never will. There's never been a better opportunity. Inter Milan are asking him to take a pay cut. First, that increases the chances that he might leave. Second, it could mean the fee is more modest. Third, even his wages may be manageable if United only have to beat Inter's reduced offer.

It has been reported in the past, as mentioned in the links earlier, that United would have had to pay up to £40 million and wages of £200,000 a week.

With both Paris St-Germain and Manchester City saying they have no interest, where else would Inter get that sort of fee for him?

Financial Fair Play is now a real and meaningful issue for European clubs. Many of them are already cutting their cloth accordingly, but United don't have that problem, nor will they for the foreseeable future unless they fall out of contention for Champions League places.

Why, therefore, would Sneijder cross the city to AC Milan when United have the cash to beat any amount the Italian club might put on the table?

OK, so his wife is settled in the city, but a footballer's career is 20 years at most. Sneijder is 28 and realistically could have another six or seven years at the top. His wife's career in the media could be conducted in the UK and can also continue long after Wesley has retired.

If Robin Van Persie and his family can make the sacrifices of moving to Manchester then why shouldn't Sneijder? Top players play their football where they want to, and if Van Persie is happy and fulfilled, no doubt he can convey that to his fellow countryman.

What he can also convey is a very clear message about the adulation and hero worship Sneijder would get if he came to Old Trafford. You only have to look at the sheer pleasure and contentment Van Persie felt after he scored the winner on Sunday to realise what it can mean for a top player to play for United.

It's not just about the trophies, it's also about what Van Persie said about United "breathing football."


So how and where does he fit?

The player that most fans seem to covet at the moment is Kevin Strootman, who has impressed for the Dutch team recently.

While United's style does not countenance a defensive midfielder and Sir Alex doesn't want one, supporters still rue the departure of Roy Keane. What they really want, therefore, is a box-to-box midfielder.

Paul Scholes could do that at his youngest and best; Kevin Strootman can do it, but so can Wesley Sneijder, so why pick him?

Whether Sir Alex is bluffing or saying you can never replace Paul Scholes, Sneijder can come in and play the sort of role that Scholes used to. He may not quite have the passing range that Scholes or Beckham had, but he is capable of hitting those great passes, as is Michael Carrick.

He is also a busy player who would fit the more modern United take on a close passing, interchanging style just as well as he would fit their traditional 4-4-2.

He is at his best as an attacking midfielder or in the No. 10 role, from which Scholes used to create magic and ghost into the penalty area to score. It may, however, be true that the Ginger Prince was a better header of the ball.

So then the question would be asked whether United can accommodate Sneijder, Rooney and Kagawa? Certainly Kagawa was bought to fulfil the most likely role that Sneijder would have played, but like Sneijder, Sir Alex would have appreciated that a player like Kagawa has the technical skill to play any one of at least three roles.

So either he or Sneijder could play No.10, central attacking midfield or on the wing. Either could play in any of the top three positions in a diamond or the middle three of a 4-2-3-1.

Sneijder, however, has the advantage that he could also play alongside Carrick or Fletcher in the two deeper players of that formation.

Imagine Carrick and Sneijder playing together. Two top play makers interchanging and driving the whole midfield.

So then you ask where Rooney fits in to this grand scheme?

He has already shown himself to be prepared to sacrifice for the greater benefit of the team. But in any case, even Van Persie naturally drifts out to the wing to make space or to start a run into the box. 

You can talk rigid formations, but it was the Dutch who really made "total football" their own. Players of Van Persie and Sneijder's generation grew up idolising players like Johann Cruyff and Neeskens who were comfortable interchanging and playing where needed.

So where Rooney plays would be determined by where Sneijder was playing. If he was alongside Carrick, Rooney could play in any of the four advanced positions in a 4-2-3-1 or at No.10 in a 4-4-2.

More importantly, the ability, flexibility and skill of both players would mean they could also exchange their given roles at will, making them a nightmare to mark and counter.

The one thing that not many people mention when thinking about Sneijder is that he could help fill the need for more goals from midfield.

He is a consummate goalscorer with either foot. He takes a world class free kick, can arrive late in the box, shoot from distance and even dribble through a defence.

How can you not be tempted by a player who is so skilful, even more so than either Rooney or Van Persie. Are you beginning to drool at the prospect yet?


Summarising why Sneijder would be a steal at £15 million, whatever his wages

Manchester United can afford Wesley Sneijder, and nobody at Old Trafford would baulk at paying a player of his quality the same sort of wage that Rooney and Van Persie are on.

United will have no problem with FFP, and in any case, some big salary bills are going to drop out of the accounts over the next two or three years, with Giggs and Scholes retiring and later possibly Ferdinand, Carrick, Vidic, Evra and maybe Fletcher either retiring or being moved on.

First and foremost, he is a truly world class player and someone that the younger players can learn from.

United will always have, need and be able to afford a deep squad. They will always be chasing whatever trophies they can. And the defensive injury crises of the last couple of seasons highlight exactly why you can never have too many good players, as City have found and Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have missed.

Sneijder is a game-changer and could easily have the sort of impact that Van Persie has had, compounding United's threat. 

He is also a consummate European-style player. He would not be cup-tied for the Champions League, as Inter are in the Europa League. But he knows how to win it, having been pivotal in Inter's win under Mourinho. He's also been a runner up in the World Cup.

Finally, if United were to sign him, they would keep him out of the clutches of Chelsea and Manchester City.


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