Is Wesley Sneijder really inching closer to … Galatasaray?

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As unlikely as this move seemed at the beginning of the month, now it appears Wesley Sneijder could actually move to Turkey. No joke. Galatasaray, one of the country’s two huge clubs, have confirmed a €10 million agreement is in place with Inter Milan. An just as remarkably, Sneijder’s agent claims player and club are working toward a deal.

How is this even possible? Wesley Sneijder? In Turkey? This deal seems three years and one World Cup cycle too soon; yet perversely, it also a lot makes sense.

To understand why you have to remember how Sneijder and Inter have painted themselves into this forlorn corner, a process that started when the Nerazzurri rewarded Sneijder with a new contract after their 2009-10 treble-winning season. At the time, Sneijder was being discussed as a Ballon d’Or candidate, a status earned by winning the Champions League in the same year he helped the Netherlands to a World Cup final.

Since, his brilliant technical quality and playmaking has been rejoined by the fitness concerns that plagued him at Real Madrid. Combine that with a player who has become accustomed to having an attack building around him in Italy’s more tactical, less athletic game and you have a player whose value as regressed sharply. And you have a club that’s spend two years regretting their generosity.

That’s why Inter’s entered this gambit. While in theory they’re a more competitive team with an integrated Sneijder, the Dutch creator’s value has become so skewed that it makes sense for them to try to force his hand. They want him to cut €2 million from his annual salary or move, and as leverage they’ve used his playing time. Sneijder hasn’t appeared in a game since Sept. 26.

If Sneijder was willing to give that money back, he’d be playing for Andrea Stramaccioni right now. And that may still happen, but you can’t blame a guy for expecting his club to perform a contract in good faith.  Sniejder’s tried to wait Inter out with the hope they’ll change their mind, but now that the winter window is open, he’s exploring the market. In his ideal world, Sneijder will find a team willing to give him something close to his current salary while offering Inter’s competitive opportunities.

But when you think about it, the list of teams that would be willing to pay Sneijder’s £4.8 million salary, a transfer fee, offer him European competition while actually having a need for him is very small. The very few teams that have those financial resources already have stacked rosters. Real Madrid has Mesut Ozil, Luka Modric and Kaka. Barcelona has no lack of playmakers. Same for Bayern Munich. Perhaps teams like Paris Saint-Germain or England’s top three have spots, but if they don’t want to add a high-earner who hasn’t played to his reputation for two years, you can hardly fault them.

That’s where a team like Galatasaray comes into play. They may not be they type of club Sneijder envisioned what the calendar turned, but they’re a huge, well-resourced club that’s in Champions League. They face Schalke in the Round of 16. If they can add Sneijder to already has Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, Ivorian defender Emmanuel Eboué, Brazilian midfielder Felipe Melo and striker Burka Yilmaz (Champions League’s co-leading scorer), they might be able advance in the competition. At least, that’s what they convince themselves.

And if, along the way, Sneijder happens to reestablish his value ande can be sold on in the summer, all the better. The proposed €10 million fee is high (and Sneijder’s wages won’t help), but what if he’s only on the books for six months before moving on (at a small profit) this in summer? It could be worse.

And if that doesn’t happen and you have to hold on to the player, then you’re a Turkish club that landed Wesley Freakin’ Sneijder. You trim payroll in other places, turn to the east, and scoff at your rivals: “We have Wesley Sneijder.” This idea could actually work.

It’s just a matter of Sneijder signing up. Undoubtedly, his agent is calling around, begging another club to come in. But if nobody does, that’s probably a good sign that it’s time to go to Turkey. There are a lot worse places to play than Istanbul.

 

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

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ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.

Iran names initial squad for World Cup

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Jalal Hosseini and Vouria Ghaffouri have both been left off Iran’s provisional 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not say why Hosseini, a Persepolis defender, and Ghaffouri were not included.

There was space for midfielders Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi, however. Both played with Greek club Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2017. Iran does not recognize Israel and its supreme leader has threatened the country in the past. Both Shojaei and Hajsafi missed matches with the national team after the game.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh, a 24-year-old forward who plays in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, is also in the squad, which was announced Sunday.

In the midfield, Queiroz chose Saeid Ezatolahi, although the Amkar Perm player will miss the team’s first World Cup match because he was given a red card in a game against South Korea in qualifying.

Nottingham Forest midfielder Ashkan Dejagah was also chosen.

Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh of Portuguese club Maritimo made the squad. His father, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, was Iran captain and goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Iran will play in Group B at the World Cup with Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The team will play warm-up matches in Turkey and Greece before heading to Russia.

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)

Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (KV Oostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al Saad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiakos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK), Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa)

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiakos), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa Sports Club), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (SC Heerenveen)

Six Premier Leaguers named to Argentina, but no Icardi

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Argentina’s World Cup roster features a number of the usual suspects, particularly up front, but Serie A’s top goalscorer has been surprisingly left off the list of 23.

[ MORE: Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan ]

Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s squad was made official on Monday, which includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.

The Albiceleste won’t be taking Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi though, which has raised some questions about the decision.

Icardi led all scorers in Italy’s top flight this season, scoring 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches, while Paulo Dybala edged out the final striker spot in the Argentina squad.

Dybala is teammates with Higuain at Italian giants Juventus.

Meanwhile, six Premier League players were named into the South American nation’s squad, including goalkeepers Sergio Romero (Man United) and Willy Caballero (Chelsea), as well as Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Marcos Rojo (Man United) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).

Men in Blazers POD: FA Cup recap, UCL final preview and more

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Rog and Davo recap a spite-fueled, snear-filled, peak Phil Jones FA Cup Final, preview this weekend’s Champions League tilt between Liverpool and Real Madrid and eulogize Big Sam… gone the opposite of too soon. Plus, World Cup rosters and MLS.

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