Sneijder

Galatasaray’s captures and our temporal distortion

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There comes a point in your life when two and a half years seems like “the blind of an eye.” That’s because you’re old. As an infant, two years is monumental – the time you’ll learn to speak, walk, and do basic life tasks that will carry you through the rest of your life. In adolescence, it’s the difference between fifth grade naiveté and seventh grade micro-maturity. In high school, it’s the span between freshman innocence and junior-year consequences.

When you grow up, there’s no difference between 26 and 28, 35 and 38, 62 and 64. The spans that redefined your younger self become worryingly irrelevant. You’re too busy trying to stop time and avoid birthdays to see those small increments dissolve. The type of changes that spanned two teenage years take decades to manifest as adults.

Two and a half years ago, Wesley Sneijder was being billed as one of the best players in the world. He had just let Internazionale to titles in league, Europe, and Inter’s domestic cup. He’d also been a focal point for a Netherlands team that made the World Cup final. Ten months after being deemed surplus to requirements and Florentino Perez’s second attempt to make the Santiago Bernabeu cosmic, Sneijder was completely redeemed. The potential that compelled Real Madrid to pry the savant from Ajax finally manifested its brilliance in Italy.

Memories of 2010 resurfaced last week when the 28-year-old moved to Turkey, a long-rumored link to Galatasaray finally coming good. This weekend, Sneijder made his first Turkish appearance in an Istanbul derby against Besiktas, coming off the bench in Gala’s 2-1 Sunday victory. Though celebrated, the debut was the denouement of a mini-saga born of a huge contract, fueled by a lingering perception, concluded by the paradox of a move both inevitable and surprising.

Sneijder has never really been the player he showed in 2009-10, even if expectations always cast him as such. But it was failure to meet those expectations that  left out of Manuel Pellegrini’s team after the Chilean’s 2010 arrival at the Bernabeu. Failed hope led him to be sold to Inter at a loss, to get one of the biggest contracts in Italy after one breakout season, and to being one of the worst deals in Serie A when he couldn’t maintain his outlying form. They also let to the gasps, awes, and shock of fans when Sneijder’s Turkish move was finally confirmed, Inter also taking a loss.

source:  Nerazzurri fans who followed the Sneijder saga weren’t surprised by the move, but for others whose relationship with Wesley was still anchored in South Africa, the transfer illustrated our flawed perceptions – two-year-old images subject to the same dilations that separate our infancy from adulthood. As far as time is concerned, professional soccer players may as well be infants for whom and a half years is huge. The time can make Arsenal snipers into Manchester United linch pins, modestly competitive Bundesliga club into enviable projects, and talented right wingers into the best player of all time.

They can also defy our assumptions and make Serie A’s best player into a competitive irrelevancy. Some memories want to hold on to visage of Sneijder as an elite player, but with that player now lodged in the annuls of Nerazzuri history, the move to Turkey made sense. The world in which Sneijder was a poor fit for Gala was a reflective, mental one – outdated knowledge that reminds us how old we’ve become. Too expensive for his talent, too young to be giving money back, Sneijder was always destined to end up somewhere that would defy his reputation.

Today comes word that Gala’s made another perception-challenging splash, the Turkish champions reaching an agreement for Chelsea icon Didier Drogba. Given his age and the fact that he’s been away from Europe for eight months, Drogba’s no longer a bank-breaking capture. With Shanghai Shenhua having reportedly failed to pay Drogba for three months, the Ivorian becomes a bargain for the Turkish champions who will reportedly not have to pay a fee for his services. A $5.4 million signing bonus on top of a $2.7 million annual salary makes Drogba’s signing worth the marketing alone.

MORE: Former Chelsea star signs with Galatasaray

As the news gets assimilated, expect the same bewilderment the met Sneijder’s capture to greet word of Drogba’s new home. On one level, fans newly interested in the Super Lïg will not only wonder how Gala captured the duo but how good the team can be. How were they able to get two of the world’s biggest stars? And matched up against Schalke in Champions League … oh just imagine how far they could go.

On another level, that kind of reaction is just another of the same temporal distortion that portrayed Sneijder’s move as a shock. The Dutch midfielder is too good for Galatasaray, the thinking goes, because of the player he was two years ago. And despite the fact that few have seen him play in the last eight months and he’s yet to have an impact on the Africa Cup of Nations, some will let perceptions from last May convinced them Drogba can buttress a Champions League threat. There is, after all, a reason a club like Juventus was thought to be pursuing him (or not).

source: Getty ImagesIt’s a vision of Drogba that overlooks that mere 13 goals in 35 all-competition games he scored last season. Or the 13 in 46 he scored the season before that. We think of his header in the Champions League final and his Europe-winning penalty kick and remember Drogba as the player who scored 37 in 44 during the 2009-10 season. But as is the case with Sneijder, our image of Drogba is nothing more than a strange distortion that’s prevented us from recasting our heroes.

Maybe we’re all getting lazy. Maybe we’re tired of trying to stay up-to-date or we’ve run out of room in our imaginations, space that could had conceived a world with a changing Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder. Perhaps the metronomic consistency of the Lionel Messis, Cristianos Ronaldos, and Xavi Hernándezs deceived us into believing soccer’s stars are immutable, a notion that explains our continued fascination with Kaká and Steven Gerrard.

But as we move farther and faster from the world that created Sneijder and Drogba’s stars, we fall deeper into this time dilation. The last World Cup cycle speeds farther from us, we allow ourselves to dwell on the outdated images that lead to our empty shock. If our minds were in 2012 instead of 2013, we’d take Sneijder and Drogba’s captures in stride. Our stubborn focus on that retreating world means we’ll never have an accurate view of yesterday’s stars.

Maybe all of us, as a soccer culture, have become so old that two and a half years still seems like a yesterday. Our younger selves would have never got hung up on this before. Maybe a less mature soccer culture wouldn’t have gotten hung up on why stars are moving to Istanbul.

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.

 

Strange, amazing: Wesley Sneijder ready to join Spurs?

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Even though we linked to this story in the Premier League Boxing Day preview, it deserves a post of its own. It’s not everyday a player like Wesley Sneijder is rumored to be on the move.

That he’s moving from Internazionale isn’t surprising. The team has frozen him out in an effort to get the player to voluntarily reduce his wages, though in order for the Dutch international to come in line with Inter Milan’s expectations, he’d have to reduce his compensation by 30 percent. Currently making just short of $159,000 per week (afte taxes), Sneijder is thought to be the highest earner in the Italian game.

MORE: Don’t expect to see Wesley Sneijder any time soon

Sneijder would have to really want to stay in Milan to capitulate to such demands, especially considering the club’s strong-armed tactics practically beg him to leave. With Anzhi Makhachkala, Manchester City, and Manchester United still linked to the 28-year-old, Sneijder has plenty of potential suitors who could keep him in a similar wage bracket.

Not to mention the fact it’s unclear Sneijder, for all his obvious quality, makes Inter a better team. Head coach Andrea Stramaccioni has moved away from systems that depend on the attacking midfielder. To insert him into the plans would risk throwing the squad out of balance.

MORE: Juventus taking the drama out of Serie A

Add in the fact Sneijder’s still Champions League eligible (Inter having failed to qualify for the competition this season) and the former Nerazzurri linchpin looks destined to leave Inter during the January window.

That he was linked with Spurs  by a prominent Italian journalist is the big surprise:

[tweet https://twitter.com/tancredipalmeri/status/283393939434774528]

The personal terms should have been the most difficult part of this deal. That they may already be done is amazing enough, but with Spurs of all squads?

Tottenham is not known for paying high wages. At least, their wage structure doesn’t allow them to pay at the level of Manchester City or Chelsea. With Sneijder available, it’s unlikely they could offer terms near those of the Manchester clubs. If they were to get Sneijder, either their policies will have changed or Sneijder’s desperation to get out of Inter will leave a lot of money on the table. In addition to the wage cut, London is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

MORE: Brad Friedel signs one-year extension with Spurs

As Palmeri noted later on his Twitter timeline, a lot could still go wrong with the deal, but even the basis for it looks thin. If the move were to happen (which would require Spurs and Inter agreeing on a transfer fee), the hype surrounding the transfer would end up far less compelling than the dirty details. Either Spurs will have made a shift regarding what they’re willing to compensate players or Sneijder will have hit the eject button before finding a cushier landing spot.