MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 01: Wesley Sneijder of FC Inter Milan during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale Milano and US Citta di Palermo at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on February 1, 2012 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
During the past summer, rumors of Wesley Sneijder to Manchester United became nearly as tiresome as the recent Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra saga. Once again, speculation flared up this past week when the Internazionale playmaker spoke about how he maybe could have left his current club during the recent January transfer window. I realize that this isn't any sort of earth-shattering news but nonetheless, I felt compelled to bring you the most recent statements on the matter. In addition to this, an update is provided on Sneijder's season thus far at Inter and I also share my continual belief that a Sneijder to United would not be a prudent move for the club.
"I always watch what can happen. I don't ever close any possibilities. I'm fine here at Inter. But I don't know where I'll play next season. If last Tuesday (January's transfer deadline day) some club had submitted an offer, maybe I could have gone. But the truth is that I'm happy at Inter."
- Sneijder | Source: Nos
When further asked about a potential move to Old Trafford, here is how Dutchman responded:
"Who would not want to play in a club like that? But there has never been real contact."
- Sneijder | Source: Nos
Inter manager Claudio Ranieri also chimed in on the matter. Here is what he had to say with specific mention of recent rumors that Sneijder could move to Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala -- the same recently rich club that has made Sneijder's former teammate, Samuel Eto'o -- the world's highest paid player:
"Could he be on his way to Anzhi? As far as I'm concerned, and I hope the player too, no," Ranieri told Inter's official website. "I asked him: 'Do you feel you are important for this team? Because you are important for us,' and he replied 'Yes, I'm happy here'. He's a champion, he just has to find his rhythm again and we have to work out again how to keep him supplied with the ball, just as he has to work out how to feed our strikers. He has told me he is happy here at Inter, so I'm pretty calm."
- Ranieri | Source: Inter.it
During the past summer, I felt that bringing in someone with the talent of Sneijder would obviously improve the squad. However, since the resources it would have taken to get him would have been enormous -- rumors of a £35-million price tag during the past summer -- and because he plays the same position as our talisman -- a 'number ten' type that more specifically likes to operate in the space between the lines -- I felt it would be an inefficient use of United's (limited?) funds. The value of such a move would likely be extremely poor.
Since the summer, Sneijder has gone on to struggle for Inter -- and perhaps this explains some of Inter's struggles this season as a club. Ranieri is Inter's second manager this season as the squad failed to adjust to the previous back-three and pressing tactics of former manager Gian Piero Gasperini.
When Ranieri took over, Inter were shockingly sitting near the relegation zone but since then, Inter has turned their season around. Much of Inter's turnaround occurred during a stretch when Sneijder was out with an injury -- a frequent occurrence for the 27-year-old. Ranieri used a 4-4-2 system during this stretch but since Sneijder's return from injury, Inter have not won a Serie A match when the Dutchman has been in the starting XI. Gasperini found it difficult using Sneijder in a box-to-box midfield role and Ranieri has basically acknowledged this is not a possibility. When Sneijder has started in recent weeks, Inter have played in either a 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-2-1 shape -- one that accommodates their playmaker's preference to play higher up the pitch.
Inter's struggles with Sneijder in the lineup, and perhaps more importantly, their forced system adjustment to get him on the pitch should be a warning to United. First of all, United clearly prefer to play in a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1ish shape right now. In the 4-4-1-1, Sneijder could play behind a lead striker but that is the role for Wayne Rooney as manager Sir Alex Ferguson clearly prefers either Danny Welbeck or Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) as the lead striker. In addition, Rooney's defensive work-rate is important in that role as well because his industry allows him to track back onto the opposition's deepest-lying midfielder against sides that deploy three central-midfielders. Furthermore, the experiment to play Sneijder in a box-to-box role clearly did not work and Ranieri won't even experiment with the idea as he desperately tries to re-qualify Inter for next season's UEFA Champions League. Inter currently are 5th in the Serie A table and 6 points shy of a Champions League place.
Perhaps the only positive from Sneijder's continual struggles -- he hasn't been in good form since World Cup 2010 -- is that he would likely come cheaper than the rumored £35-million price tag. However, his wage demands would still be a concern and that is rumored to have been the hold-up on a deal last summer. It is a little alarming how tactically reliant United are on Rooney at the moment so Sneijder could provide terrific cover. However, would it be wise to possibly break our transfer fee record and have our potentially 2nd highest paid player as only cover? If Sneijder was more flexible as a player -- which he isn't -- then perhaps this move could make more sense. Rooney is flexible enough to play effectively as a lead striker but the talisman has made it clear that his current role is his preferred one. Because of the reasons I have explained, I hope that Sneijder does not come to Old Trafford -- unless it's on the extreme cheap.