The 2009-2010 season was the pinnacle in the career of Wesley Sneijder. Having been bombed out of Real Madrid by Florentino Perez after a poor second season that yielded just two league goals and two assists and in the wake of Perez's second Galacticos project, Sneijder moved to Inter Milan, where, led by Jose Mourinho, he would have a magnificent 12 months.
A Serie A triumph, Coppa Italia success and Champions League crown was the Dutch playmaker's reward for the most consistent period of his career. He harnessed his creativity to score eight goals and make 15 assists in 40 matches as the Nerazzurri swept all before them.
That summer, the No. 10 would go on to play a key role, with five goals in seven matches, for his country as they made their way to the World Cup final in South Africa before defeat to Spain in the final. Then 26, the Ajax youth product looked to be on the cusp of becoming one of European football's very best, having won the World Cup silver ball and been named the UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year.
Now fast forward three years and think what has Sneijder, apart from being linked with a number of ridiculously high-priced moves to Manchester United, done since?
In short, he's performed pretty poorly, had some fitness problems and gotten some new tattoos. And moaned. In fact, he's moaned a lot.
He moaned that Inter were better off without Rafa Benitez, as reported by ESPNFC, despite the Spaniard building a 4-2-3-1 formation around Sneijder, like Mourinho before him. In 2012, he moaned about Inter wanting him to take a pay cut, despite performances over a two-year spell that did not justify his bloated salary, whichever way you slice it.
Sneijder, during his Ajax, Real Madrid days and Inter pomp, was a very good playmaker. Sitting just off the front, spreading passes, taking pot shots at goal, he really looked the part.
However, post-2010, it has almost been as though that role—the only one he's really suited to on a football pitch—hasn't been enough for him. He's almost come to think of himself as a secondary striker who needs to stay high up the pitch, despite having complained about that role under Benitez, saying: "I got frustrated under Benitez. … He wanted me to play as a striker."
Tactically, he isn't versatile—as much was shown during the ill-fated Gian Piero Gasperini tenure at Inter—lacking the pace required to play wide and the defensive nous needed to play deeper. As such, with teams at the very highest echelons unable to carry passengers anymore, Sneijder has had to head to Turkey and Galatasaray, in his hopes of remaining relevant.
Occasionally he shows glimpses of his former self.
At Euro 2012, as the Netherlands crashed, he was arguably their best player, while Fatih Terim had been willingly accommodating him in a 4-3-1-2 formation at Gala and he played his part in their latest title triumph. With Terim having gone, however, it'll be interesting to see what next lies in store for a player still living on a reputation garnered from a 12-month spell some three/four years ago.
As such, the question remains which is the real Sneijder: the one who enjoyed a fleeting spell, where he genuinely was considered world-class, or the guy who has ambled for far too long since.