The strange transfer saga of Wesley Sneijder

It’s hard to know whether it’s old age catching up or whether the rumors during the off season are becoming more stupid and harder to believe as years go by. This week’s reported interest by Manchester United for Dutch Inter Milan midfielder Wesley Sneijder is a case in point. The story was headline news in all the media both in the UK and Italy on Wednesday without either Sir Alex Ferguson or anyone from the club acknowledging or denying such interest.

It’s hard to know whether it’s old age catching up or whether the rumors during the off season are becoming more stupid and harder to believe as years go by. This week’s reported interest by Manchester United for Dutch Inter Milan midfielder Wesley Sneijder is a case in point. The story was headline news in all the media both in the UK and Italy on Wednesday without either Sir Alex Ferguson or anyone from the club acknowledging or denying such interest.

The Nerazzurri President Massimo Moratti confirmed receiving the offer from United saying that “The interest from Manchester United in Sneijder is real, but I didn’t look into it in an attempt not to fall into temptation” Moratti told Sky Sport Italia. Within hours, Sneijder himself issued a statement in which he said that he had no intention of leaving Inter for Manchester United or any other club “I am staying. I will play for Inter Milan next season” skysports.com reported him saying the next day “My heart is in Milan. With Inter, I won everything last season and there’s a lot more to win, like the European Super Cup, Italian Super Cup and the World Club Cup, which are all great trophies.”

The story appeared to be straightforward enough at that stage. Sir Alex or somebody on behalf of the club made an offer for Sneijder, his President confirmed receiving the offer but had no intention of selling, then the player himself came out and bluntly said thanks but no thanks to United. Simple as that, end of story.

That was until Ferguson was quoted as denying ever making such a bid for the Dutchman, believing that his squad will be better equipped to win major trophies next season even if he does not make any additions to it. “I believe the squad is stronger than last season with the younger players having another year under their belts,” the United manager said in the Mail on Sunday. “I don’t know where those reports about Sneijder came from. How can anybody turn me down when I haven’t even made a bid?”

How indeed! But that was not the end of this strange affair. On the very morning that the player takes the field for the biggest game he will ever play in his career, the Daily Star Sunday published this report under the headline SNEIJDER: I WANT TO SIGN FOR MAN UNITEDWesley Sneijder wants to play for Man United – and privately insists a move to Old Trafford from Inter Milan is not dead. The Dutch midfielder goes into today’s World Cup Final against Spain with his future still in doubt, despite claims that he is staying at the San Siro. Inter insist Sneijder, 26, won’t be going after helping them to a Champions League, Serie A and Copa Italia Treble last season. And their new boss, former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, wouldn’t be keen on the idea of losing him to Sir Alex Ferguson after their spats.

Sneijder has admitted he’s ready to discuss a new contract and his future wife, model and TV presenter Yolanthe Cabau van Kasbergen, is believed to favour living in Italy. But the Daily Star Sunday can reveal that members of Sneijder’s family are urging him to fulfil his ambition of playing for United.

A member of the Sneijder clan said: “Wesley wants to play for United and he should go there. He was very disappointed when they didn’t go for him when he was leaving Real Madrid for £12 million a year ago.” We revealed three weeks ago that Sneijder, one of the stars of the World Cup, was a target for United boss Ferguson. United have since made an offical approach and are believed to be prepared to pay £29 million – giving Inter £17 million profit on their shrewd signing from Real.

Another option would be for United to include striker Dimitar Berbatov in the deal. Sneijder could yet also be a target for his former club, following Jose Mourinho’s move there from Inter. But the indications are that Madrid’s No.1 midfield target is still Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard. That would leave Inter and United in a straight fight for Sneijder, the World Cup’s joint leading scorer with five goals. And the battle isn’t over yet for a player who is clearly torn over his future.

So what’s one supposed to believe? Ignoring the slant that the Sunday paper put on the story in which only one quote from an unnamed Sneijder clan member was included, the truth could well turn out to be a simple matter of an unforgiveable lack of communication between Ferguson and whoever may have made the offer to Inter, which is hard to believe, OR the possibility that all the parties involved are talking in code.

Moratti’s response may actually mean “You have to come up with a much better offer than that for me to even consider selling the player”, Ferguson does not appreciate being snubbed by anyone hence his denial of an offer, Sneijder, or much more likely his agent, telling United to make the sort of offer that can’t be refused and the Daily Star Sunday may simply want to keep the story running to sell a few more copies.

Is that being ultra cynical? Possibly. Could that be what’s behind this whole, confusing saga? Don’t be at all surprised.

Is this a case of “Where there’s smoke there’s fire” or is the media beating up the story?

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Frank Scicluna
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