If Fatih Terim has his way, and if Wesley Sneijder is as fit as he said he is, Galatasaray’s high-profile signing could feature, and perhaps start, in Sunday’s Istanbul derby against Beşiktaş.
Sneijder, who agreed to join the Turkish giants from Inter Milan on Sunday afternoon, landed at Atatürk Airport on Monday morning, donned a Galatasaray scarf as he was mobbed by fans and quickly got into a car bound for the club’s Metin Oktay training facility. Upon completing a medical examination he will put pen to paper on a three-and-a-half-year contract worth €5 million per season.
Galatasaray, presently first-place in the Süper Lig, were Sneijder’s most amorous suitors from the opening of the current transfer window and had their €7.5 million bid accepted by the Nerazzurri on January 8. But with a handful of Premier League clubs, most notably Liverpool, rumoured to be keen on acquiring him, the 28-year-old postponed the Galatasaray agreement until it became clear no serious offers from England would materialize.
In any event, Sneijder will consistently compete for silverware at Galatasaray, and the spectre of Champions League football likely had more than a little to do with finally convincing him to make the move.
“I want to play for titles,” he told Dutch outlet De Telegraaf. And in a Sunday interview with Turkish television station GS he said he would “love” to be included in manager Terim’s squad to face Beşiktaş on Sunday.
“I know how much football is loved in Turkey,” he added. “I will make the Galatasaray fans very proud and very happy. I’m looking forward to meeting them and making a good life together.”
Sneijder made only six appearances for Inter during the first half of the 2012-13 season due to a contract dispute, but throughout the ordeal he maintained that he was match-fit. Galatasaray will have a better indication of his conditioning on Monday evening, but all indications point to his inclusion in Sunday’s squad.
Speaking briefly with reporters at Metin Oktay, Terim confirmed his newest player would begin training on Tuesday and, “God-willing,” he added, “settle in quickly.”
Tactically, Terim—a former Fiorentina, AC Milan and Turkey manager—will have to decide between incorporating Sneijder into his current system or tweaking his preferred formation to best accommodate the Dutchman.
On paper, the 59-year-old seems to favour a 4-4-2 that more closely resembles a Brazilian-style 4-2-2-2 when the match actually starts. Felipe Melo is the midfield anchor and plays in one of the two deep-lying roles, alongside Selçuk Inan, and Johan Elmander and Burak Yilmaz are tasked with doing the business up front.
That leaves the two positions behind the strikers, both of which are responsible not only for adding an element of width, but for cutting inside in a creative role as well. With Hamit Altintop operating on the right-hand side, it would fall to Sneijder to work the channels on the left, which is where he’d be more comfortable, anyway.
Of course, Terim could ditch the system entirely and plan his tactics around Sneijder, in which case he would likely adopt a 4-2-3-1 with the Holland international functioning as the trequartista behind a lone centre-forward. This formation would lend itself especially well in Europe and, with less than a month to go before Schalke’s visit in the Champions League Round of 16, it could make its debut as soon as Sunday.
In any event, here’s what we know: The signing of Sneijder represents a major coup for both Galatasaray and Turkish football. If he aces his medical and trains well during the week he’ll feature against Beşiktaş on Sunday. Sneijder will wear the number-14 shirt, which was also worn by Netherlands legend Johann Cruyff.
And, if his performances come anywhere near to matching the hype surrounding his arrival in Istanbul, he’ll represent one of the January transfer window’s biggest-ever bargains.